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Does steak belong on the center of the plate for a healthy diet? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans committee will determine that, and more, as the 2020 DGAs are developed. (Amanda Radke/Special to Agweek)

Public forums to discuss 2020 dietary guidelines for Americans

From public schools to daycares to hospitals to the military to daycare centers, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans shape nutrition policies and menus for millions of Americans each year.

First implemented in 1980, the guidelines, known as DGAs, are updated every five years to reflect the most current and accepted research and science on health and nutrition.

In 2020, the new DGAs will be released, and currently, 20 academics, physicians and nutrition professionals are evaluating and discussing changes to be made to the previous set of recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service. The committee is also seeking public feedback and has scheduled five open forums as they develop these new nutritional recommendations for Americans.

As the 2020 DGA committee deliberates, areas of focus this time around include pregnant and lactating women and young babies, supplements, fortified foods, added sugars, alcohol con-sumption, dietary fats, seafood and frequency of eating, just to name a few.

With 300+ comments already on the docket, there are many differing opinions about what con-stitutes a healthy diet. In the most recent public meeting held July 10-11 in Washington, D.C., concerned citizens and food industry professionals voiced their concerns.

"The 2015 DGA committee focused on issues far outside the realm of nutritional science such as sustainability and taxation — that has nothing to do with a healthy diet for American — and we would like to see that not happen again in 2020," said Danielle Beck, National Cattlemen's Beef Association director of government affairs. "We have seen the USDA take a number of steps to ensure that this process does not repeat what happened in 2015."

Nina Teicholz, author of "The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet" and founder of The Nutrition Coalition, said, "The 60% of our population diagnosed with nutrition-related diseases — obesity, diabetes, dementia — is excluded," said Teicholz. "On this path, there's little question that the government's guidelines will do virtually nothing to reverse the epidemics of these diseases. Recent science indicates that many people with nutrition-related diseases typically have a 'broken' metabolism that makes them far less able to process starches and sugars. For these people, the DGAs should offer a nutritional option that is lower in carbohydrates than the existing guideline options, which all stipulate eating 50-55% of daily calories as carbohydrates."

Taylor Wallace, on behalf of the non-profit group, Produce For Better Health Foundation, said, "Fruits and vegetables have traditionally solidified their place in dietary guidelines due to their dense micronutrient content and low energy density. The science is clear, including the DGAs, we should continue to advocate for at least 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables, in all forms each day, to reduce disease risk."

"By and large, the DGAs has changed relatively little over the last 35 years: recommendations typically call on us to consume more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains; to limit foods that contain high amounts of sugar or sodium; and to develop healthy eating habits based on moderation and variety," said Sarah Reinhardt, Union of Concerned Scientists food systems and health analyst. "That being said, the Trump administration has ushered in a new era. With a particularly friendly attitude toward industry and a demonstrated distaste for science and scientific expertise, it may prove more challenging under such an administration to protect the current scientific process for developing the guidelines. As the scientific advisory committee meets throughout the course of the next year to review current evidence, we are encouraging the public to get involved and hold the administration accountable. Right now, and through early 2020, the best way to do that is to submit a public comment."

As the committee continues to weigh public testimony, submitted research and other nutritional evidence for the 2020 DGAs, three additional meetings are scheduled for Oct. 24-25 in Washington, D.C.; Jan. 23-24, 2020, in Houston; and March 12-13, 2020, in Washington. The public comment period on The Federal Register will remain open through March 2020.

To read more about these topics, visit: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/work-under-way/review-science/topics-a...

To watch the July public forum discussing the DGAs, check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y25aGM547Wk

To submit a public comment on the DGAs, go here: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FNS-2019-0001-6698

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