The work of the new Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will focus on the nutritional needs of children from birth to the age of 2 and pregnant women, but not on the issues of sustainability, Eve Stoody, the lead nutritionist at the Agriculture Department’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion Policy and the designated federal officer for the committee, said at a seminar on Friday.
The Agriculture Department and the Health and Human Services Department appointed the committee in February to advise the USDA and HHS secretaries on writing a new version of the guidelines to be relesed in 2020.
Except for a small amount of advice in the early years, the Dietary Guidelines have focused on the nutritional needs of Americans age 2 and older, Stoody said. But the 2014 farm bill mandated that the 2020 guidelines cover children from birth to 2 years and pregnant women, she said.
“This is an exciting new space for us,” Stoody said, noting that the number of experts appointed to the committee has risen to 20 in order to bring in people with knowledge of the needs of younger children and pregnant women.
When asked about calls for the Dietary Guidelines to provide advice to Americans on how to eat a sustainable diet, Stoody said that while this is “an important topic within the Department of Agriculture and the federal government,” it will not be part of the agenda for the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
The charge given to the committee by USDA and HHS, which are jointly in charge of the guidelines, does not cover sustainability, Stoody said, and as a formal federal advisory committee its members must limit their considerations to their mandate.
Stoody noted that “the core elements of the healthy diet have remained the same” since the guidelines program was started in 1980. Some people believe the guidelines are only for healthy people, but that is “inaccurate,” she said.
The 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act mandated that USDA and HHS jointly publish the guidelines every five years “to reflect the preponderance of scientific evidence,” Stoody said.
The work of the advisory committee has often been controversial, but USDA and HHS are determined that the process will be “transparent, inclusive and science-driven,” she said.
The committee will focus on six topics, she said:
▪ Pregnancy and lactation
▪ Birth to 24 months
▪ Dietary patterns
▪ Beverages and added sugars
▪ Dietary fats and seafood
▪ Frequency of eating
There will be five public meetings, she said, noting that the committee report is not a draft, but a technical report to the secretaries.
Jessica Fanzo, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, noted that calorie consumption is increasing around the world.
Americans have consumed the most calories, she said, but consumption is declining in the United States as upper income people become aware of the dangers in diets and change their eating habits.
The panel was sponsored by the National Press Foundation and held at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism in Washington.
–The Hagstrom Report