Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report Update

by Shalene McNeill, Ph.D., R.D., Executive Director, Human Nutrition Research, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff

Summary

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) submitted its scientific report to the Secretaries of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Feb. 19, 2015. This report is based on the Committee’s review of the evidence over the past 18 months, including their discussions at seven public meetings, on dietary habits to promote health and reduce risk for disease. The 500+-page report included several references to red meat and beef. Most importantly:

  • As indicated at its final meeting in December, in a historic move, the Committee removed lean meat from its list of foods that are associated with dietary patterns linked to positive health outcomes. This decision is a departure from previous DGAC reports and more than 30 years of nutrition guidance and research on lean meat. 
  • The Committee did include a small footnote in its explanation of healthful dietary patterns that stated “… lean meats can be part of a healthy dietary pattern.” 
  • The Committee highlighted recommendations related to building more sustainable diets and noted that a diet “lower in animal based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact.” 
  • In the “Healthy US” and “Healthy Mediterranean-Style” dietary patterns outlined by the DGAC, lean red meat was included at weekly serving recommendations that are consistent with the dietary patterns in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).

Therefore, while red meat was noticeably absent from the Committee’s recommendations on healthful dietary patterns, lean meat was included in a footnote and lean meat serving recommendations did not change from 2010. This report presents challenges and opportunities for the beef community, and the Beef Checkoff team is working to: ensure scientific evidence on the role of lean beef in health is provided to the teams at HHS and USDA that are now developing the 2015 DGA; and fuel a steady pipeline of good news about lean beef’s positive benefits in healthy dietary patterns among nutrition influencers, researchers and thought leaders.
 
Background

Updated every five years, the DGA is a set of evidenced-based recommendations detailing healthy eating patterns and nutrition practices for all Americans aged two years and older. The DGA is a statement of national nutrition policy that controls all federal government nutrition assistance, education and labeling programs; influences domestic health voluntary and international dietary guidelines; and serves as a reference for private sector consumer marketing and education. This nutrition policy affects millions of Americans as its standards are incorporated into efforts such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the National School Lunch Program. Additionally, the DGA identifies gaps in nutrition research and aids in establishing research agendas for federal agencies and organizations, and they provide guidance on the development of nutrition-focused consumer marketing and education programs, including those created by the Beef Checkoff.

The 2015 DGAC, which comprised 14 nutrition researchers, met seven times since its charter was outlined in 2013. The recently submitted 2015 DGAC scientific report outlines the Committee’s recommendations that will now be reviewed by teams at HHS and the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), as they develop the 2015 DGA policy document. Health and Human Services is leading the development of the 2015 DGA policy recommendations, with input from CNPP, and is expected to release the final 2015 DGA by the end of the year. The CNPP is likely to release an updated version of MyPlate, incorporating the 2015 DGA recommendations, at or around the same time.

HHS hosted a public meeting on March 24, 2015, to address any questions and hear oral comments on the 2015 DGAC’s scientific report from the public - several individuals, including myself, provided testimony about meat's role in a healthy diet. In addition, the public is invited to submit written comments to HHS and CNPP until May 8, 2015, and the Beef Checkoff will participate in this process, as we have done in the past, to ensure published scientific evidence on lean beef’s role in health is available.

Discussion

Throughout the DGA process, the Beef Checkoff submitted 12 sets of comments coupled with independent nutrition researchers and thought leaders who have submitted additional comments to advance the evidence on lean beef’s role in health. In addition, the Beef Checkoff team continues to communicate to nutrition researchers and influencers to ensure a steady drumbeat of messages and materials reaches them with up-to-date information on the evolution of lean beef and current lean beef consumption, as well as the latest science on lean beef benefits. As these audiences are asked by media and others to comment on the 2015 DGAC scientific report and because they will apply the final DGA to future research and consumer education, it’s critical they have the latest messaging. Key points being addressed in this outreach include:

  • Scientific evidence clearly shows that choosing lean beef as part of a healthful diet is associated with improved overall nutrient intake, improved overall diet quality and positive health outcomes. 
  • Lean beef is an excellent source of six essential nutrients (protein, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin and selenium) and a good source of four essential nutrients (phosphorous, choline, iron and riboflavin). A 3-oz serving of lean beef provides 154 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat, on average.
  • With more than 30 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean, it’s easy to build great-tasting and satisfying meals with lean beef. Today, 66 percent of beef cuts sold at retail are lean (when cooked and trimmed). 
  • Americans are already eating red meat at levels that are consistent with the 2010 DGA. The fact is that protein and lean meat consumption is the only category from the 2010 DGA that Americans are consuming within the recommended amounts.

Conclusion

As a cornerstone of federal nutrition policy, the DGA offer a critical opportunity to communicate the role of lean beef in human health. The 2015 DGAC scientific report presents challenges and opportunities for the beef community, and the Beef Checkoff is working to ensure evidence is now considered by the teams at HHS and CNPP, as the final 2015 DGA consumer messages are developed. Scientific evidence clearly demonstrates how today’s lean beef fits within currently recommended dietary patterns – and how, along with whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy, lean beef can be enjoyed as part of a healthy dietary pattern that is consistent with the 2010 DGA and other recommended eating patterns such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.

Additional Resources

 

Tags: Beef Issues Quarterly, Issues Updates, Spring 2015

March 24, 2015