USDA Posts Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s Final Report

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dietary supplements

Washington, D.C.—The USDA has posted the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s final scientific report, a review of the latest available science on specific nutrition topics, according to a statement from USDA. The findings will inform USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as they develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

USDA and HHS are accepting written public comments on the final report through August 13, 2020. There will also be a public meeting on August 11, wherein the public can provide oral comments.

“Science-based dietary guidance is critical to ensuring a healthy future for America,” said USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps in the statement. “USDA greatly appreciates the high-quality work done by this committee comprised of our nation’s leading scientists and dietary experts. We look forward to thoroughly reviewing the report and leveraging their scientific advice as we partner with HHS to develop the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

USDA and HHS, the statement says, “have taken numerous steps to promote transparency, integrity, and public involvement.” Those steps include a webinar held to present the draft conclusions publicly, publicizing topics and questions examined prior to scientific review, and allowing the committee’s work to be informed by more than 62,000 public comments. The statement notes that prior committees received an average of 450 comments.

The report notes that “To both encourage and facilitate a healthy diet, the focus needs to be not only on what Americans choose to eat, but also on the social, economic, and environmental contexts that determine dietary patterns. These contexts also drive dietary, and consequently, health disparities that exist in the United States.” The report also explains that there are different dietary gaps in individual life stages, and in individual cultures. One example the statement notes: Breastfed infants have different feeding patterns from formula-fed infants, and “these differences in feeding patterns leave room for improvement. Non-Hispanic Black infants are the least likely to be breastfed and have differential fruit and vegetable intake patterns starting early in life and continuing throughout the life course. This cumulative difference in feeding behavior for Black infants may set a course for higher risk of nutrition-related chronic disease that underpins many of the disparities seen today.” The report suggested that research should be conducted in the future to better understand what drives cultural differences in breastfeeding.

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The committee suggested that messages should be tailored to specific groups of people to help them make “small, positive shifts.” It noted that “there is no one diet, or food group, or individual food to consumer or avoid, but… it is possible to make any number of changes to move toward a similar healthy end.” The committee also recommended that the final guidelines provide specific messaging around beverage intakes: “Current food pattern modeling exercises typically do not include or address beverages, and consumers may be confused by a lack of specific guidance surrounding beverage choices.”

One specific problem the report noted is that “The poor diets of adolescent females are quite concerning, both at the individual level and for the potential intergenerational impacts”; poor nutrition at that stage can lead to osteoporosis in later life, and there is minimal research on the relationship between nutritional status of a pregnant woman and nutritional status of the fetus. The Natural Products Association (NPA) responded to this with a call to expand SNAP and WIC programs to cover dietary supplements. Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., President and CEO of NPA, said in a press release: “This reinforces what we already know: That access to proper nutrition, especially for children and pregnant mothers, is critical to long-term health. Congress needs to do more to ensure Americans have access to products that support their health, and expanding health savings accounts and programs like WIC to include nutritional supplements is the best way to make that happen. This report provides a real-world look at how supplements are an integral part of the American diet at all stages of development.”

Update: Balchem Corporation’s Human Nutrition and Health division also responded, in a press release noting that the company is “pleased” to see a focus on choline in the report. The press release notes that the report called out choline as an under-consumed nutrient among several age groups, and specifically among pregnant and lactating women. It also called out the lack of choline in formula and prenatal vitamins, although the body of research regarding choline shows that it plays a critical role in fetal brain development and cognitive function in infants and toddlers.

“While prior Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees have typically been broad analyses of adults, special attention was given in this report to the dietary intakes and specific needs of infants, toddlers, and women who are pregnant or lactating,” said Tom Druke, Marketing Director, Human Nutrition & Health, Balchem, in the press release. “This is significant because those three categories of people are most in need of choline, which explains why that essential nutrient received significant attention throughout.”

Update 7/23: CRN, too, noted the importance of the new focus on pregnant and lactating women. “CRN is especially pleased to see the Committee’s recognition of the appropriate use of dietary supplements during pregnancy and lactation life stages,” said Haiuyen Nguyen, Senior Director, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs, CRN, in a press release. “We appreciate the Report’s acknowledgment that nutrient needs during these life stages are not expected to be met by food alone, especially for essential nutrients like iron, iodine, and folic acid. CRN also agrees with the Committee’s suggestion that choline and magnesium should be further evaluated as levels of inadequacy of both nutrients are high in pregnant and lactating women.”

CRN noted that the Committee pointed to iron as a nutrient of concern in these groups.

CRN also praised the committee for acknowledging the role that supplements play in a healthy diet. “For the first time, the Advisory Committee was asked to evaluate evidence on the relationships between dietary supplements of specific nutrients and health outcomes in pregnancy and lactation and birth to 24 months life stages,” said Nguyen. “This shift demonstrates great progress and CRN hopes to see future Dietary Guidelines recognize supplements as part of a strategy to meet essential nutrient intake even beyond the nutrients included in the 2020 report.”

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