2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Scientific Report

Posted on by Greeshma Somashekar
In February 2015, the nation’s top health and nutrition experts submitted recommendations for dietary guidelines for Americans to the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The scientific evidence in their report provides the federal government with a foundation for developing national nutrition policy. 


The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) report focuses on American’s “suboptimal” dietary patterns, which have contributed to rising rates of obesity and associated chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. The scientists suggest that Americans need to focus on consuming more whole, minimally processed foods, greater amounts of fruits and veggies, and fewer animal products.

Summary of Topic-Specific Findings

  • Food and Nutrient Intake: Current Status and Trends
    Several nutrients (vitamins A/D/E/C, folate, calcium, magnesium, fiber, potassium) are under consumed by Americans relative to the Adequate Intake Levels set by the Institute of Medicine, while two nutrients (sodium and saturated fat) are over consumed by the U.S. population. Although diet quality varies based on food environment, the average diet of a U.S. consumer does not meet recommendations for vegetables, fruit, dairy, or whole grains, and exceeds recommendations for refined grains, solid fats, and added sugars.
  • Dietary Patterns and Health Outcomes
    Using existing research and data, the DGAC modeled three healthy dietary patterns to examine their nutritional adequacy: 1) Healthy U.S.-style Pattern, 2) Healthy Mediterranean-Style Pattern, and 3) Healthy Vegetarian Pattern. Americans should be encouraged to consume meals that are rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products and alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains.
  • Individual Diet and Physical Activity Behavior Change
    The DGAC suggests a diverse range of behavior change strategies that can be used to improve health outcomes.  These include reducing screen time, reducing the frequency of eating out at fast food restaurants, increasing frequency of shared family meals, self-monitoring of diet and body weight, and effective food labeling to target healthy food choices. These comprehensive lifestyle interventions should also be paired with exercise. Nutrition counseling can also help some people adopt and maintain healthier diets.
  • Food Environment and Settings
    Preventive nutrition services that take into account the social determinants of health are largely unavailable in the U.S. health system. Disparities in access can be reduced by improving the availability of healthy food in underserved communities. Federal nutrition assistance programs like SNAP and WIC play a key role in this effort and must ensure that millions of beneficiaries have access to affordable foods that meet Dietary Guidelines recommendations. The DGAC’s findings also revealed the power of “multi-component approaches” over single component strategies. Effective interventions incorporated both nutrition and physical activity in creative ways.
  • Food Sustainability and Safety
    The impact of food production, processing, and consumption on environmental sustainability is an area of research that is rapidly evolving. Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact (increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use) compared to the three healthy dietary patterns mentioned above. Linking health, dietary guidance, and the environment will promote human health and the sustainability of natural resources to ensure current and long-term food security in the 21st century.

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