Every five years, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are tasked with writing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans based on recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) Report. As the scientific basis for federal nutrition policy, policymakers heavily rely on the Dietary Guidelines as a resource when developing federal, state and local food and nutrition programs.
On February 19th, the 2015 DGAC released their much anticipated report. While their recommendations are consistent with the information presented at their final meeting last December, this committee continues to garner attention for their exploration of new topics, like sustainability.
Here are the top five takeaways regarding fats and oils:
1. Reduce Consumption of Saturated Fats
Following suit from previous Dietary Guidelines committees, the 2015 DGAC recommends a population goal of consuming less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fats. This committee focused on the specific macronutrients that should replace saturated fats in the diet. After reviewing the evidence, the committee found that replacing saturated fatty acids with unsaturated fats, such as polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, significantly reduces total and LDL cholesterol.
2. Pushing for Reformulation
Several times in the report, the committee mentioned reformulation as a solution to decreasing intake for nutrients of overconsumption, like saturated fats. Seeing that burgers and sandwiches—two foods ubiquitous in our food environment—are the top contributors to saturated fat intake, it can be expected that food companies will slowly begin reformulating these foods and others to improve their unsaturated fat to saturated fat ratio.
3. A Need for More Research
Interestingly, the committee identified high-oleic oils as a particular area of future research. As this type of oil becomes more prevalent in the food industry, it will become important to gain a better understanding of the relationship between consumption of these oils and chronic diseases. The committee suggests that future studies look at the effects of plant oils containing a mix of omega 9, omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids on cardiovascular disease risk factors.
4. Avoid Trans Fats
As expected, the committee recommends that Americans avoid trans fats because of their link to a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In place of trans fats, consumption of non-hydrogenated vegetable oils high in unsaturated fats – such as canola oil – is encouraged for achieving a healthy dietary pattern.
5. Pursue a Plant-Based Diet
A review of evidence from the committee’s chapter on sustainability found that a diet higher in plant-based foods – vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds – and lower in animal-based foods and calories is not only heathier for us, but will have less environmental impact than the current U.S. diet. Throughout the report, the committee honed in on the idea of focusing on type of fat rather than the amount of fat consumed. Say hello to more vegetable oils and goodbye to animal-based fats.
Comments will now be accepted until April 8th. The final Dietary Guidelines for Americans is expected to be released this fall, so stay tuned for more updates throughout the year. If you missed out on following the progression of this report, check out Moving the Nation’s Health Forward, Dietary Guidelines Slowly but Surely Coming to Life and Looking Forward to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for more information.