The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) are updated every 5 years to provide nutrition recommendations to promote optimum health. A scientific committee is appointed to review the most recent research and submit a report to the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, which then write the updated DGA. Although the most recent scientific committee’s report contained several new recommendations, the published 2020-2025 DGA are basically the same as the previous recommendations. What do these new DGA leave out that nutrition and health experts want to see included?
The DGA don’t go far enough in limiting added sugars.
Added sugars are sugars that are added during food processing (such as syrup, honey, concentrated fruit juice or other types of sugars) to cookies, crackers, granola bars and other foods; or sugars that you add yourself (such as flavored creamer in coffee or honey in your tea). These add calories without also adding any important nutrients. Sugar-sweetened beverages (like lemonade, soda pop, sweet tea and juice drinks) contribute the largest amount of added sugar to our diet.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the 2020-2025 DGA ignored the recommendation of the advisory committee to reduce added sugars to <6% of calories. The previous DGA limited added sugar to <10% of calories, and that recommendation stands in the current DGA.
Why this is important: Added sugars are strongly correlated with overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancers.
When we replace foods and beverages high in added sugars with lower sugar, healthier foods, we are able to consume more of the key vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. Plus we also consume fewer calories, which is crucial in reducing overweight and obesity.
What you can do:
- Make water your primary beverage.
- Choose fresh fruit for dessert and snacks instead of cookies, cakes, or candy.
- Enjoy 1 ounce of dark chocolate as a healthier sweet treat, infrequently.
- Instead of adding sugar or flavored creamer to coffee or tea, use naturally-flavored and unsweetened tea and try adding cinnamon to coffee.
By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES, CPT, CHWC
- Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2020. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, DC. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/2020-advisory-committee-report
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf
- Center for Science in the Public Interest. Dietary Guidelines Drops Expert Panel’s Added Sugars Recommendation. Statement of CSPI Policy Associate Jessi Silverman. https://cspinet.org/news/dietary-guidelines-drops-expert-panel%E2%80%99s-added-sugars-recommendation-20201229 published 12-29-2020. Accessed 2-10-2021.
- The Washington Post. How the Trump Administration Limited the Scope of the USDA’s 2020 Dietary Guidelines. Laura Reiley. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/08/30/how-trump-administration-limited-scope-usdas-dietary-guidelines/ published 8-30-29. Accessed 2-20-21
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. 2015 Dietary Guidelines will not Include a Focus on Sustainability. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2015/10/08/2015-dietary-guidelines-will-not-include-a-focus-on-sustainability/ published 10-8-2015. Accessed 2-20-21
- American Heart Association. Processed vs Ultra-processed Food and Why It Matters to Your Health. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/01/29/processed-vs-ultra-processed-food-and-why-it-matters-to-your-health published 1-29-20; accessed 2-20-21
- Red and Processed Meats and Health Risks: How Strong Is the Evidence?Frank Qian, Matthew C. Riddle, Judith Wylie-Rosett, Frank B. Hu. Diabetes Care Feb 2020, 43 (2) 265-271; DOI: 10.2337/dci19-0063
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About Chronic Diseases. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/index.htm last reviewed 1-12-21; accessed 2-20-21
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.