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Chorus of Concerns Re: Dietary Guidelines Process Continue to Grow

Washington D.C.— Just days before the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) expert report is due to be published, there’s a growing chorus of concerns regarding the DGA’s narrow scope and flawed scientific process. Multiple groups as well as a Member of Congress are now urging a delay of the report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), to ensure the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (USDA-HHS) have adequate time to review and address the concerns. 
Last week, a Member of Congress submitted a strong letter about a number of issues to the Secretaries of USDA-HHS, the agencies overseeing the Guidelines. Also last week, a number of groups, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Food for Health Alliance, Low-Carb Action Network and the Nutrition Coalition asked for a delay in the DGAC expert report until the myriad of scientific and other problems can be addressed. 
U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson, Ranking Member of the House Agriculture subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations stated, in a letter, “Mr. Secretaries, after repeated failures of the DGA to prevent, much less reverse, the worsening diet-related health of Americans, it is time for the DGAC to stop digging the hole it’s standing in.” 
“The American people deserve trustworthy nutrition policy based on a comprehensive review of the most rigorous science. Without reforms, this process is on track to exclude large bodies of scientific literature, including virtually all studies on weight loss. What good are Guidelines that don’t address obesity?”
“These guidelines are once again—tragically--on track to do virtually nothing to reverse the epidemics of disease that are the cause of enormous suffering and great economic cost,” said Nina Teicholz, Executive Director of the Nutrition Coalition. She added: 
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which represents some 107,000 dieticians, made two public comments. The first included strong statements about the need to delay the expert report in order to complete the scientific reviews properly. The second detailed the problems with the scientific process, noting a lack of clear methodology and the need to expand the scope of the DGA to include not only healthy Americans but also those with diet-related diseases. For instance, the 2020 DGAC has chosen to exclude virtually all the science on weight loss--at a time when a large majority of Americans are suffering from overweight or obesity, conditions that are closely tied to the development of other diet-related diseases such as hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. 
“A Dietary Guidelines that does not address the two-thirds of Americans who are overweight or have obesity is, in our view, a nutrition policy that lacks relevance to much of the general public and reflects an insufficient review of the science,” stated the Academy in its second comment. 
The Food for Health Alliance, in its public comments, observed that the evidence base “for many analyses came from studies predominantly on white, upper middle-class individuals” and that the Guidelines did not make accommodations for racial or ethnic minorities, underserved communities, older people, or for the 60% of Americans with a diet-related chronic disease—all of whom have unique nutritional and dietary needs. 
A letter by  the Low-Carb Action Network, a group advocating for low-carb diets, objected to the DGAC’s exclusion of virtually all scientific studies on low-carb diets, a problem also emphasized by Rep. Johnson. 
Earlier, the Nutrition Coalition, in a letter to the Secretaries, detailed an extensive series of allegations by one or more member(s) of the DGAC who blew the whistle on the process. The problems included the lack of consistent standards for the scientific reviews, the extensive exclusion of evidence, the lack of follow-through on many proposed issues—in essence, an overall picture of ‘cutting corners’ on the science. The DGAC member(s) also expressed concern that the USDA had not adopted a majority of recommendations by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, issued in a Congressionally mandated report, to ensure that the Guidelines could be “trustworthy.” 
Additionally, the public continues to voice their concerns with more than 62,000 public comments submitted to the USDA-HHS when the comment period closed on June 10. Some 7,200 additional messages  have been sent to Congress from concerned citizens and healthcare professionals from across the country, focusing on the urgent need for a more rigorous process to produce more reliable Guidelines.  
As Rep. Johnson wrote, “If Americans were free to ignore the Guidelines in setting their dietary goals, we might make progress in reducing rates of diet-related diseases. However, the Guidelines are required guidance for federal feeding programs, including the School Lunch Program, military rations, feeding programs for the elderly, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and they serve as the basis for recommendations by physicians and dietitians, as well as for the Nutrition Facts Panel on food packaging. Thus, their influence is pervasive in determining the foods consumed by Americans.” 
“Ensuring that the 2020 DGA is based on a comprehensive review of the best and most current science is of fundamental importance,” said Teicholz. “The fact that many dozens, if not hundreds of studies are being excluded by the DGAC is unconscionable. This and other problems must be addressed before the expert report can be published.” 
The Guidelines are issued only once every five years, and the 2020 iteration is well underway with the scientific report due out on Wednesday.
Source : nutritioncoalition