New dietary guidelines ease up on cholesterol, salt and need for breakfast; have some inconsistency on fat and cholesterol

The U.S Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services today released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, described by publishers as “an essential resource for health professionals and policymakers as they design and implement food and nutrition programs that feed the American people, such as USDA’s National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, which feed more than 30 million children each school day.”

The most notable change is that the guidelines have dropped the “warning about avoiding cholesterol in the diet,” Peter Whoriskey and Ariana Eunjung Cha report for The Washington Post. “Instituted in 1977, that caution helped sink egg sales across the country, but scientists now say the warning is unnecessary.” New guidelines also ease “up slightly on warnings about salty foods and omits a previous suggestion that Americans eat breakfast in order to stay fit. The old version of Dietary Guidelines informed readers that ‘not eating breakfast has been associated with excess body weight,’ but the new version is silent on the topic.”

“In what may be its most controversial move, the new version of the Dietary Guidelines continues its longstanding warning about foods rich in saturated fats—that is, those fats characteristic of meat and dairy products,” Whoriskey and Cha write. “By doing so, the new guidelines will draw criticism, but any advice on saturated fats likely would have stirred opposition.” (Post graphic)

The guidelines also say drinking three to five eight-ounce cups of coffee per day can be part of a healthy diet, though “some research suggests that coffee may be harmful for some people,” Whoriskey and Cha write. Warnings about salt also are softened. “Under the old rules, most adults were advised to consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily, while the limit for the others was 2,300 milligrams per day. Under the new guidelines, most adults are advised to limit themselves to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day or roughly the amount of sodium in a teaspoon of salt.”

The guidelines, which have been controversial and criticized regarding whether the recommendations are based on sound science, “appear inconsistent and constrained by past recommendations,” Whoriskey and Cha write. For example, the new guidelines call for people to limit their cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams per day—based on recommendations by its own expert committee—”but elsewhere in the report, the guidelines cite a 16-year-old report from the Institute of Medicine and advise people to ‘eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern.'”

“Similarly, the report calls for people to limit the amount of saturated fat in their diet to 10 percent of their calories and accordingly advises people to choose milk and other dairy products that are no-fat or low-fat,” Whoriskey and Cha write. “But newer research, also cited by the guidelines, shows that merely reducing consumption of saturated fats may offer no benefit if people merely replace those saturated fats with carbohydrates, as they often do.”

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