Dietary Guidelines: The Quinquennial Quest

As spring arrives on the East Coast of the US and the cherry blossoms have bloomed in DC, there is electricity in the air because a new US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) is soon to be named. This step follows the notification late last year in the US Federal Register that the US Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture are embarking on a review of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, as mandated by Congress to be conducted every five years.

Dietary Guidelines Purpose: An Overview

For those who may not be aware, the DGAC report serves as the basis for all Federal food and nutrition policy and education initiatives. This report eventually becomes the official policy document which is used as guidance for Americans ages 2 years and up, including those at increased risk of chronic disease. Additionally, this document is intended for an audience of professionals in nutrition, health, and education as a roadmap to develop educational materials for the public and for policymakers to help them in designing and carrying out federal nutrition-related programs. The information and key recommendations of the Guidelines are based on the preponderance of the most current scientific and medical knowledge. The rigorous and thorough process for completing this document takes more than two years.

Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

The DGAC can consist of between 13 and 17 leading nutrition, health, and other scientific experts. Prospective members of the DGAC must be familiar with the purpose, communication, and application of the Guidelines and have demonstrated interest in the public's health and well-being through research and/or educational endeavors. Expertise will be sought in specific specialty areas that may include, but are not limited to, cardiovascular disease; type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity; osteoporosis; cancer; pediatrics; gerontology; maternal/gestational nutrition; epidemiology; general medicine; energy balance, which includes physical activity; nutrient bioavailability; nutrition biochemistry and physiology; food processing science, safety and technology; public health; nutrition education and behavior change; and/or nutrition-related systematic review methodology.

2010 Dietary Guidelines: Revisiting History

Many changes to the process and recommendations were made in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. How was the 2010 Dietary Guidelines different than previous years, you ask? The Federal Advisory Committee Act and Quality of Information Act set major requirements for open, systematic, and transparent federal advisory committee operations. Changes made to proactively meet these requirements for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans included:

• Implementation of USDA’s Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL) which used rigorous, systematic, and transparent methodology, designed to minimize bias, and ensure the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of the information used to develop Federal guidance

• Initiation of the (or )Web site to serve as a publicly available store house for all research protocols, literature selection decisions, evidence summary materials, and graded conclusion statements

• Initiation of the easily retrievable and searchable Dietary Guidelines Web site,, to centrally house all Dietary Guidelines related content and information

• Development of a public comments database for simple comment submissions during the comment period, and viewing by anyone at any time

• Use of webinars to broadcast meetings that were viewed across the globe with attendance doubling from previous in-person only meetings

• Ability to archive public meeting documents and audio recordings online for continued public access, beyond the initial meeting date.

2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report: A two-year process

How can you as a member of the American public get involved in this “Super Bowl of Nutrition” where up to 17 committee experts are divided into teams to evaluate the strength of scientific evidence published and not considered since the last DGAC met? By submitting published research that is judged to be strong evidence as viewed through the DGAC Nutrition Evidence Library process and relates to an issue which the DGAC decides during the first meeting, needs to be addressed. It is a safe assumption that the 2015 DGAC will consider answering questions left unanswered from the 2010 DGAC concerning the following areas:  Energy Balance and Weight Management, Nutrient Adequacy, Fatty Acids and Cholesterol, Protein, Carbohydrates, Sodium, Potassium, Water, Food Safety and Technology. These questions can be found at

Although there remain many uncertainties about the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, there is some structure which we can count on:

  • There will be six open (public) committee meetings
  • The Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL) will be available to public at
  • Public comments will be accepted throughout deliberations
  • An advisory report will be posted online for public comment
  • An agency review of the DGAC Report will be conducted
  • After several rounds of agency review, a Dietary Guidelines Policy Document will be published


Check out the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Resource Page