By: Elizabeth Rahavi, RD Date: 4/19/10
For more than a year and a half my colleagues and I at the International Food Information Council have hunkered down for two day intervals to listen to the deliberations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Committee. The most recent deliberations were held last Tuesday and Wednesday, April 13-14th.
A Committee with a Cause
The purpose of this Committee is to review the recent research related to diet and health and set recommendations, which are then used by the Federal Government to develop national nutrition policy. The Committee is using an evidence-based process to develop grading criteria that will provide guidance on the strength of the evidence for each recommendation. Have you ever wondered how strong the science is related to dietary calcium and weight loss? Well, this report will answer that question, along with hundreds of others. And once completed, it will impact everything from the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs to federal assistance programs, research grants and beyond.
As we near the end of this long and informative road we are beginning to see the fruit of the labor, including potential recommendations and changes to the report. Here are a few of the changes that might be included in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report.
Traditionally the Dietary Guidelines have created food and diet recommendations for a healthy population. However, with a large segment of the U.S. population struggling to maintain a healthy weight and/or lose weight, a larger emphasis has been put on developing recommendations for an overweight population.
Two new chapters will be added to this iteration of the report: one that looks at the merits of various dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean Diet, a Plant-Based Diet, the Okinawan Diet, and compares them with certain health outcomes; the other chapter will help translate and integrate the dietary recommendations from various Subcommittees into practice.
In terms of weight loss, the Committee looked at the role of dietary protein, carbohydrates, and fat to see what combination of these three nutrients were more likely to lead to weight loss. What they found was that for studies that lasted longer than six months, no particular combination of fat, protein and carbohydrate was better at inducing and sustaining weight loss. Essentially, the Committee said that a calorie is a calorie. If you consume more energy (calories) from food than you use through daily physical activity and every day tasks, than you are more likely to gain weight.
Discretionary calories, while this term has a practical use in developing and conducting research studies, the Committee is considering a move away from this term. The Committee is considering ways that they can apply this concept in language that is easier for stakeholder to use in their day-to-day practice.
Protein will be a new focus area in this edition of the report. The Committee is considering questions related to plant- and animal-based protein and weight loss, heart health, certain cancers, blood pressure and various other health outcomes.
What’s next for the Committee?
Currently, the Committee is working on finalizing all of their conclusion statements and finalizing the flow of each chapter within the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report. In May, the Committee will convene for the sixth public meeting, which will be held via Web cast.
After the meeting in May, the report will undergo final formatting and will be submitted to the Secretaries of the United States Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. Sometime before the year is completed, the report will be posted for public comment.
Did you listen to the deliberations? What were your key takeaways? What would you like to see added to the final report?