In February 2015, the Dietary Advisory Committee (DGAC) has completed their report (The Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee), which comes out once every 5 years, to assess how the current trends of health conditions may be influenced by diet. Data from the What We Eat in America dietary survey (part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) was used. Below is a summary of the report…
It was found that vitamins A, C, D and E, folate, calcium, magnesium, fiber and potassium are underconsumed in relation to the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Estimated Average Requirement or Adequate Intake Levels. Iron was also found to be underconsumed by adolescents and premonopausal females.
Most of the US population is underconsuming food groups that contain these nutrients, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy in relation to the recommended amounts set by the USDA.
They also found that sodium and saturated fat are overconsumed in relation to the IOM’s Tolerable Upper Intake Levels, and that there is an overconsumption of refined grains and added sugars.
It was suggested that foods such as burgers, sandwiches, mixed dishes, desserts and beverages can be improved to increase the intake of these underconsumed foods, while reducing the intake of sodium, saturated fat, added sugars and refined grains at the same time.
The DGAC recognizes that obesity and other diet-related health conditions and chronic diseases are prevalent in the US, and that a greater priority must be set on reducing these risks, especially for certain ethnic groups and lower income families.
The report referred to three different diets that promote health benefits as a result of their nutritional adequacy. These diets include: the Healthy US-style diet, the Healthy Mediterranean-style diet and the Healthy Vegetarian diet. They provided qualitative descriptions and scientific evidence that these dietary patterns help produce positive health outcomes and that they reduce the environmental impact as compared to the current US diet.
Overall, the DGAC identified that a healthy diet contains higher amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts, with moderate amounts of alcohol and reduced amounts of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, and refined grains. This viewpoint is in alignment with the viewpoints proposed by the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) and the American Heart Association (AHA).
The report further explained that individual participation, as well as collaboration from organizations, governments and healthcare systems, is needed in order for the necessary changes in diet and physical activity to take effect. They suggested reduced screen time and fast food, as well as increasing shared meals with family, self-monitoring of diet and weight management.
According to the DGAC, there needs to be more access to healthy and affordable healthy foods for low income populations, and label education should be designed so that it can easily be understood by individuals with low health literacy. Cultural contexts should be taken into consideration when making healthy foods available for immigrants who have insecurities about having to give up their healthier dietary habits after arriving in America.
The DGAC suggests putting environmental and nutritional assistance programs in place to create a greater access to affordable foods so that underserved populations can attain an improved diet and reduced obesity and diet-related diseases.
By making improvements in four main environmental settings where food is available (community food access, child care, schools and worksites) and realizing that these settings have a big impact on how people make their food choices, positive changes are possible.
They found that physical activity is an important part of obesity prevention, and that it would be beneficial to 1) present more opportunities for physical activity, 2) get parents more involved in child care and school settings, and 3) initiate physical activity and nutrition education approaches, as well as nutrition standards policies at schools.
Our current US diet has been shown to have increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy use as compared to the suggested diet patterns. Environmental concerns, as well as ensuring our food supply is sustainable and safe were important consideration in this report.
They stressed the importance of physical activity for every person, including: children, adolescents, adults, older adults, women during pregnancy and postpartum, and individuals with disabilities. They indicated that Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committees will be asked to strongly consider the most recent evidence when making their recommendations to the Federal government for updating the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.