The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s Scientific Report puts dairy in a strong place for the final 2020-2025 guidelines that are set to be released at the end of this year.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide crucial guidance for public health professionals to help individuals consume a healthy and nutritionally adequate diet. Of special importance for dairy producers is their use in developing federal food, nutrition, and health policies and programs. For example, the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs must develop nutritional standards which align with the guidelines. The guidelines are rewritten every five years.
The process of updating the guidelines involves selecting an advisory committee that develops protocols, analyzes the science, scores the strength of the evidence, and develops recommendations. From there, the committee members write a scientific advisory report that lays the groundwork for the guidelines which are then written by USDA and Health and Human Services.
Dairy’s importance reiterated
The eagerly awaited scientific report was released on July 15. Dairy’s importance to diets was restated repeatedly by the committee. Highlights included:
- Dairy is recommended for consumption within all three healthy eating patterns featured in the report, with three servings per day recommended in the Healthy U.S. and Healthy Vegetarian-style eating patterns and two servings per day in the Healthy Mediterranean pattern.
- The committee recognized milk as a nutrient-rich beverage that contributes positively to under-consumed nutrients including potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins A and D, and others. Calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D were all classified as nutrients of public health concern by the committee. In addition, dairy was identified as a good source of iodine, a nutrient of public health concern for pregnant women.
- Low-fat and nonfat dairy foods are recommended as nutrient-dense building blocks of a healthy diet.
- In the committee’s first-ever recommendations for birth through 24 months, yogurt and cheese are recognized as complementary feeding options for infants ages 6 to 12 months, and 1.5 to 2 daily servings of dairy foods (milk, cheese, and yogurt) are included in healthy eating patterns for toddlers 12 to 24 months old.
- The committee also maintained dairy’s place within its own group. Its only nod to plant-based beverages came from including fortified soy beverage, as it did in the previous guidelines. That holding of the line on the dairy group is crucial at a time when plant-based products are attempting to use dairy terms to mislead consumers as to the nutritional content of their beverages.
Unfortunately, the committee didn’t hit all the marks in their scientific report. The committee failed to acknowledge newer science surrounding saturated fats and dairy products, only recommending low-fat and nonfat dairy, and keeping the saturated fats limit at 10% of daily energy.
While the saturated fat limit didn’t change, the committee did acknowledge that more data is needed to look at how different food sources of dietary fats and matrices they are found within affect health outcomes, offering a potentially positive change for the future.
The docket for public comments is open until August 13. NMPF is encouraging everyone across the dairy community to join its call-to-action and submit comments to HHS (Health and Human Services) and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). How to do that is explained via the organization’s website at www.nmpf.org.