Every five years since 1980, the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services publishes an updated edition of dietary guidelines, translating science and research into nutrition recommendations for professionals, policymakers, and individuals with the goal of improving and maintaining general health as well as preventing diseases. The most recent guideline for 2015-2020 was released January 7, 2016. Here is a summary of the main points:
One main difference between this set of dietary guidelines and previous editions is the recommended amount of added sugars. Whereas the 2010 edition did not include a recommended added sugar limit, the current guidelines limit it to 10% of calories per day. This comes from a growing body of evidence that high levels of sugar consumption are associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, regardless of whether people are overweight or obese.
In addition, both lean animal protein and non-animal protein sources are emphasized in the updated guidelines. Specifically, “at least 8-ounce-equivalents of seafood per week” is recommended, and unsalted nuts or seeds are encouraged in place of other protein foods, not in addition to them. Reducing red meat consumption is not stated but it is subtly implied.
The last major distinction is the lack of emphasis on cholesterol intake. Previous dietary guidelines recommended limiting dietary cholesterol intake to 300 mg per day as a way to control hypercholesterolemia and reduce the risk of heart disease. However, the newest guidelines do not mention any restriction on cholesterol intake. This may be due to new research suggesting that the relationship between decreased cholesterol intake and reduced levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream may not be as strong as once thought.
These sound-bites from the guidelines may not be easy for everyone to follow, but dietary changes, as with any changes to habit, start small. The Dietary Guidelines are a useful tool for individuals to use for shaping their eating patterns.
US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition.