Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Thursday received the report and recommendations of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), that is charged with revising Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years.

The full report can be accessed here.

“Now that the advisory committee has completed its recommendations, HHS and USDA will review this advisory report, along with comments from the public — including other experts — and input from other federal agencies as we begin the process of updating the guidelines,” Vilsack and Burwell said in a joint statement.  The final policy document is not expected until December, 2015, at the earliest.

Comments can be filed online after a notice is published in the Federal Register.  The public will also have an opportunity to offer oral comments at a public meeting in Bethesda, Maryland on March 24.

The DGAC found that Americans underconsume vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and potassium.  They also found that two nutrients — sodium and saturated fat — are overconsumed by the U.S. population and that intake of refined grains and added sugars is too high.

A summary of the committee’s recommendations is as follows:

Meat and Poultry

“Lean meats can be a part of a healthy dietary pattern,” the DGAC said in the report, albeit in a footnote.  The committee urged Americans to think about “healthy” U.S. dietary patterns, and Mediterranean-style or vegetarian diets, with more fruits, nuts, legumes, vegetables and whole grains, and less red or processed meat.

NCC wrote to the committee last month to reinforce poultry’s role in a healthy, balanced diet.  “Including meat and poultry in the diet allows consumers to more easily fulfill their nutrient requirements by providing abundant essential amino acids and macronutrients.  We recommend that DGAC provides information around portion control and how to choose healthier products as opposed to picking winners and losers in the food pyramid by restricting or completely eliminating nutrient dense foods such as fresh and processed chicken.”


“Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use, compared to the above dietary patterns,” the report said.

“This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower, than proposed in these three dietary patterns. Of note is that no food groups need to be eliminated completely to improve sustainability outcomes over the current status.”

“The environmental impact of food production is considerable and if natural resources such as land, water and energy are not conserved and managed optimally, they will be strained and potentially lost,” the report said. “The global production of food is responsible for 80 percent of deforestation, more than 70 percent of fresh water use, and up to 30 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.”

The committee recommended that, “As the focus of the dietary guidelines is to shift consumer eating habits toward healthier alternatives, it is imperative that, in this context, the shift also involve movement toward less resource-intensive diets. Individual and population-level adoption of more sustainable diets can change consumer demand away from more resource-intensive foods to foods that have a lower environmental impact.”

In December, Congress passed a spending bill that contained a non-binding directive to USDA and HHS calling on the departments not to take sustainability into account when issuing the final guidelines.


The committee confirmed that cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern, pointing to evidence that shows the amount of cholesterol coming from food is not really that worrisome.

An Executive Summary of the committee’s other recommendations on sugar, alcohol, coffee, physical activity and other areas can be found here.