New Dietary Guidelines Must Be Sustainable— Regardless of Politics, Say Experts

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Yaneff_041015According to a new article published in the journal Science Express, researchers are urging for the latest iteration of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) to include sustainable choices for the overall wellbeing of the American and world population.

“We believe the issue of scope is not the overarching concern, but a political maneuver to excise sustainability from dietary discussions,” wrote the journal authors, who are public health experts at George Washington and Tufts universities.

The article is published days before the Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell meet with the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. The groups will meet to discuss the process for the development of the DGA.

The recommendations to the DGA from the advisors are thought to “greatly exceed the group’s scope with commenting on “wider policy issues,” says committee U.S. House Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas).

The journal authors disagree by writing in the report that nothing in the 1990 DGA statute prevents sustainability from being included. The authors believe that the issue with sustainability in the DGA is more of a political issue for various reasons.

These were some of the points included in the recent article:

  • Sustainability could potentially change the food-group guidance currently in place to focus on more specific foods in the food groups. For instance, instead of protein as a food group, the focus would shift from chicken vs. fish, or chicken vs. beef, as potential protein sources.
  • Industry leaders believe that sustainability may lead to regulation in the future.
  • When drafting future dietary guidelines, formation of new political coalitions may help favor the sustainability side of the argument.
  • Also, sustainability considerations may echo sustainable diet importance, which would open the government up to investments, while recommending sustainable foods to consumers.

If the sustainability changes are included in the DGA, there would be a major impact, especially since nutrition professionals rely on the guidance, children are served the DGA with the National School Lunch Program, and it is the basis for military meal plans.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Merrigan, K., et al., “Designing a sustainable diet,” Science 2015, doi: 10.1126/science.aab2031.
“New dietary guidelines must be sustainable, regardless of politics,” ScienceDaily web site, October 1, 2015;