Six Takeaways from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) Report

March 4, 2015


On February 19th, the long-awaited 2015 DGAC Report was submitted to the Sectaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). While the report is consistent with recommendations from the final meeting last December, this committee is making headlines with their emboldened thinking and exploration into uncharted territories.

We’ve read through the 571-page report and picked out the recommendations that are likely to make the biggest splash.

  1. A Strong Stance against Added Sugars

As suspected, the committee is not holding back when it comes to added sugars. They are recommending no more than 10% of daily calories come from added sugars and the inclusion of an “added sugars” label on the Nutrition Facts Panel. The committee even went so far as to suggesting taxation on higher sugar-containing foods and beverages to encourage reduced consumption of these products. We expect to see strong opposition to these recommendations, based on the perceived quality of the science used to develop these recommendations, as well as their real-world applicability.

  1. Emphasis on Reformulation

Throughout the report, several recommendations were made relating to the reformulation of food products. For example, the committee found strong and consistent evidence that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated fats, significantly reduces total and LDL cholesterol. Whether it is switching products to a higher percentage of unsaturated fats or reducing sodium content, be on the lookout as companies continue to strive to make their products even more nutritious.

  1. A More Sustainable Future

For the first time in dietary guidelines history, the 2015 DGAC addressed the topic of sustainability. The committee found that diets higher in plant-based foods – vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds – and lower in animal-based foods and calories is not only heathier, but will have less environmental impact than the current U.S. diet. This recommendation has stirred up controversy on the Hill as many feel the committee has gone outside their scope on this topic.

  1. Candid about Cholesterol

For years the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has recommended limiting cholesterol intake to less than 300mg/day, but the 2015 DGAC took a different stance. The committee found no evidence showing an appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and cholesterol levels in the blood, therefore removing cholesterol as a nutrient of concern for overconsumption. Being that one egg contains roughly 200mg of cholesterol, this news should come as a relief to Americans as they no longer need to severely restrict their consumption of this breakfast staple.

  1. What Happened to Lean Meats?

Returning from a working lunch at their final meeting last December, the committee decided at the last minute to remove “lean meats” from their healthy dietary pattern recommendations. Due to inconsistent definitions and handling of lean meats in the studies evaluated, the committee was unable to identify lean meats as a common characteristic across the reviews. This comes as a blow to the meat industry, as food pattern modeling conducted by the committee found that lean meats can be part of Healthy U.S.-style and Healthy Mediterranean-style patterns.

  1. Creating a Culture of Health

A big emphasis was placed on what the committee is calling a “Culture of Health.” Described as a nationwide shift to an environment where healthy choices are easy, accessible, affordable and normative, the committee is summoning individuals, organizations, private businesses and communities to come together and create a healthier environment in the U.S. The DGAC closes the executive summary of their report by stating that concerted, bold actions are needed to achieve healthy dietary patterns and increase physical activity levels to promote the health of the U.S. population.

What to Expect Next:

Unlike past committees, the 2015 DGAC has been outwardly bold and assertive with their recommendations. They have explored new areas of focus and included several policy recommendations for which many question their regulatory rationale for inclusion in this report. With the addition of a note in last year’s Omnibus Bill reminding the 2015 DGAC to focus on the nutritional responsibilities of the panel, there is much anticipation of how closely the Secretaries of HHS and USDA will ultimately follow the report recommendations.

The public comment period is now open until April 8th, but if you’re in the D.C. area, there will be a public meeting on March 24th.

Don’t have a presence in the D.C. area? FleishmanHillard offers a food and nutrition policy monitoring service that provides a bi-weekly report of the latest happenings on the Hill as it relates to your company’s interests and needs. Additionally, we’re available to report live from any conferences, hearings and public meetings that are of interest to your business. Contact me for more information.