Monday, January 04, 2021

New federal nutrition guides, which influence school lunches and food stamps, ignore experts' calls for less sugar, alcohol

New federal nutritional guidelines unveiled last week, which influence everything from school lunches and military rations to food stamps, ignored scientific advisers' calls to lower recommended sugar and alcohol intake. Agency officials said there wasn't enough evidence to advise stricter limits on sugar and alcohol, but emphasized that people should cut back on both.

"The updated guidelines are the first to include dietary advice for infants, toddlers and pregnant women," Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico's Weekly Agriculture. "They also have a broader theme of encouraging consumers to “make every bite count” by choosing nutrient-rich foods and beverages, with five categories — fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein — accounting for 85 percent of daily calories.

The Department of Agriculture and the Department for Health and Human Services have jointly released updated guidelines every five years since 1980. The federal government hired an independent panel of 20 doctors, nutritionists and public-health experts from major academic institutions to assist in creating the new guidelines. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee "suggested the guidelines should take a harder line against added sugars, but USDA and HHS decided to keep the Obama-era advice that individuals try to not consume more than 10 percent of their calories from added sugars," Helena Bottemiller Evich reports for Politico. "The committee had recommended dropping the limit down even further to 6 percent."

The committee also "recommended in June that the guidelines should urge men to cut back on alcohol by reducing the government’s definition of 'moderate drinking' from two drinks per day to one. (At the time, the panel recommended keeping the definition of moderate drinking the same for women, at one drink per day.)," Evich reports. "Government officials ultimately decided to not adopt the stricter alcohol recommendation, which had sparked furious pushback and lobbying from the alcohol industry.

The dietary guidelines have long been a political football because of their influence over federal nutrition programs, Evich reports.

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