Next year, the federal government will publish its quinquennial Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which “reflects the current body of nutrition science and provides advice on what to eat and drink to promote health and reduce risk of chronic disease.”
Before each new edition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture files a scientific report to inform its findings.
The latest report paints a grim picture of American health:
70% of us are overweight or obese.
60% suffer from a chronic health condition.
40% struggle with multiple chronic health conditions.
37 million Americans – including 6 million children – live with food insecurity.
The authors didn’t fail to address the impact of COVID-19, which had already shut down the country when they released their report.
“Throughout the world, the consequences of physical isolation and financial disruption by the threat of COVID-19 infection has led to significant increases in food insecurity and hunger, furthering increasing susceptibility to both infectious and diet-related chronic disease,” Committee Chair Barbara Schneeman and Vice Chair Ronald Kleinman wrote.
The report includes a proposal for the supplementation of folic acid in pregnant women. The authors based their recommendation on findings that suggest pregnant women don’t get enough folic acid, which can increase the risk of neural tube defects in a developing fetus. This deficiency is critical in the first trimester.
“This committee’s findings on folic acid supplements are consistent with those of previous committees, namely that folic acid supplementation is associated with better maternal folate status during pregnancy and reduced risk of congenital anomalies in the child,” the report explains. “The current review also suggests that folic acid supplementation may reduce the risk of hypertensive disorders among women at high-risk or with a previous history of these disorders.”
The report also found that the lack of sufficient vitamin D, calcium, dietary fiber, and potassium intake poses additional public health problems. Researchers blame the average American’s excess consumption of saturated fats, sodium-added sugars, alcohol, and a diet lacking in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
The dietary supplements industry, including trade groups such as the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), applauded the report’s recommendations.
“CRN is especially pleased to see the Committee’s recognition of the appropriate use of dietary supplements during pregnancy and lactation life stages,” CRN Senior Director of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs Haiuyen Nguyen said in a press release. “We appreciate the report’s acknowledgment that nutrient needs during these life stages are not expected to be met by food alone, especially for essential nutrients like iron, iodine, and folic acid. CRN also agrees with the committee’s suggestion that choline and magnesium should be further evaluated as levels of inadequacy of both nutrients are high in pregnant and lactating women.”
The fed’s dietary guidelines are more than well-meaning suggestions to consumers. They represent an influential set of recommendations that advise all government dietary guidance, from national nutrition standards to U.S. agricultural policy.
With federal officials set to publish the new guidelines in December, food, beverage, and dietary supplements companies should examine formulations, production, and product portfolios to plan for the required updates. The report sways public opinion – and, by extension, consumer demand – and its findings can alter the marketplace, whether it’s a shift away from red meat or a push toward increasingly popular healthier diet options. Its recommendations – at least for the next five years – will also influence federal policy, particularly in the commercial and educational sectors.
Join our upcoming webinar, “How F&B Can Prepare for the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” featuring leading food nutrition expert and Ketchum Managing Director Alison Borgmeyer. Borgmeyer will go over the new guidelines and advise brands on how to get out in front of upcoming market changes. Register here.