How will USDA/HHS decide what will translate into the policy document?
Some think of the translation from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC)’s scientific report to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) policy document as a black box and, honestly, this is understandable. While a certain amount of privacy is necessary while the policy is being created—frankly so that outside entities are not able to unduly influence its contents and so that the huge undertaking of writing, reviewing, and clearing the policy can happen—the 2020-2025 DGA have been the most transparent of their kind.
That said, for a trained eye, there are some breadcrumbs indicating what may ultimately appear/not appear in the final policy. Below, we are sharing some of our insights with you.
Insight #1: It’s safe to assume that the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services will use similar criteria as was utilized for topic identification in the beginning of the 2020 DGAC process to guide whether something should be included. The government lists these criteria as establishing:
Relevance – the topic is within the scope of the DGA and its focus is on food-based recommendations, not clinical guidelines for medical treatment;
Importance – the topic has new, relevant data and represents an area of substantial public health concern, uncertainty, and/or knowledge gap;
Potential federal impact – there is a probability that guidance on the topic would inform federal food and nutrition policies and programs; and
Duplication has been avoided – the topic is not currently addressed through existing evidence-based federal guidance (other than the Dietary Guidelines).
Insight #2: Topics that were not included in the 2020-2025 DGAC report, or those in which no additional science was identified, will be carried over from the 2015-2020 DGA.
Insight #3: The DGA policy document will have a focus on dietary patterns contributing to health and how those patterns apply to various age and life stages. Food group recommendations for each calorie-level pattern will likely remain the same or include minor changes.
Insight #4: The updated policy will not include areas that, while controversial and/or of interest to external groups based on public comment, do not have adequate scientific support and/or meet the criteria outlined in Insight #1 (e.g., recommendations for macronutrient intakes that are outside of the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range—AMDR—or sustainability).
Insight #5: The Guidelines will continue to evolve as the field of nutrition science does; yet it is hard to determine what that will look like. Historically, the DGA was intended to help Americans prevent chronic disease, not treat them. Yet, the majority of the population has already been diagnosed with one or more chronic health conditions. To this point, will future Guidelines be broadened to include diseased populations?
Additional musings include:
Will the science evolve to the level where the government can make evidence-based recommendations on a variety of hot topics (e.g., specifically defining diet quality; frequency of eating; special diets like low-carb, low-fat/, or keto; sustainability; behavior change and adherence to dietary guidance)?
Will more data be available in the near future to inform stronger Guidelines for children under 2 years of age?
Will nutrition guidance for aging adults be covered in a more robust and comprehensive way?
While there are unknowns about the future of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we can answer questions about the history, procedures in place, and how they have evolved over time. Want to engage and get involved in the process? Contact Nutrition On Demand today and we’ll help you!