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2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for America: A Review
By Gary F. Zeolla
This article is continued from 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for America: A Review - Part One.
Other Dietary Components
After looking at the various food groups, the Guidelines next look at “Other Dietary Components,” starting with added sugars:
Added sugars include syrups and other caloric sweeteners. When sugars are added to foods and beverages to sweeten them, they add calories without contributing essential nutrients. Consumption of added sugars can make it difficult for individuals to meet their nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit or milk, are not added sugars.…
Healthy eating patterns limit added sugars to less than 10 percent of calories per day… When added sugars in foods and beverages exceed 10 percent of calories, a healthy eating pattern may be difficult to achieve.
As indicated, the main problem with consuming foods with added sugars is it makes it impossible to consume sufficient nutrients without consuming too many calories, as added sugars contain no nutrients themselves other than calories in the form of carbs. That is why added sugars are called “empty calories.” But naturally occurring sugars in fruit and dairy always come packed with a wealth of nutrients. There is also growing evidence that added sugars contribute to health problems independent of the weight gain they can cause. Thus the guideline of limiting added sugars to less than 10% of calories is sound.
The next dietary component is saturated fats:
Intake of saturated fats should be limited to less than 10 percent of calories per day by replacing them with unsaturated fats and while keeping total dietary fats within the age-appropriate AMDR [Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges] …
Strong and consistent evidence shows that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, is associated with reduced blood levels of total cholesterol and of low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol). Additionally, strong and consistent evidence shows that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats is associated with a reduced risk of CVD events (heart attacks) and CVD-related deaths.
Some evidence has shown that replacing saturated fats with plant sources of monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil and nuts, may be associated with a reduced risk of CVD. However, the evidence base for monounsaturated fats is not as strong as the evidence base for replacement with polyunsaturated fats. … Replacing total fat or saturated fats with carbohydrates is not associated with reduced risk of CVD. Additional research is needed to determine whether this relationship is consistent across categories of carbohydrates (e.g., whole versus refined grains; intrinsic versus added sugars), as they may have different associations with various health outcomes. Therefore, saturated fats in the diet should be replaced with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
These points were mentioned in Part One but bear elaboration given the controversy surrounding them. Again, replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats is beneficial, no matter what some might claim; but there is no benefit to replacing saturated fats with processed carbs. The only question remaining is if replacing saturated fats with unprocessed carbs would be beneficial. I personally think that it would be, but the question needs further investigation.
The next food component is trans fats:
Individuals should limit intake of trans fats to as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils in margarines, and by limiting other solid fats. A number of studies have observed an association between increased intake of trans fats and increased risk of CVD. This increased risk is due, in part, to its LDL-cholesterol-raising effect.
There is no question remaining--trans fats are unhealthy and should be avoided as much as possible. This is easily done by avoiding processed foods, as they are the main source of trans fats. The small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats is some animal foods is not problematic, “Because natural trans fats are present in dairy products and meats in only small quantities and these foods can be important sources of nutrients, these foods do not need to be eliminated from the diet.”
The next food component is cholesterol:
The Key Recommendation from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines to limit consumption of dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day is not included in the 2015 edition, but this change does not suggest that dietary cholesterol is no longer important to consider when building healthy eating patterns.…
In general, foods that are higher in dietary cholesterol, such as fatty meats and high-fat dairy products, are also higher in saturated fats. The USDA Food Patterns are limited in saturated fats, and because of the commonality of food sources of saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, the Patterns are also low in dietary cholesterol.
Strong evidence from mostly prospective cohort studies but also randomized controlled trials has shown that eating patterns that include lower intake of dietary cholesterol are associated with reduced risk of CVD, and moderate evidence indicates that these eating patterns are associated with reduced risk of obesity. … More research is needed regarding the dose-response relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels. Adequate evidence is not available for a quantitative limit for dietary cholesterol specific to the Dietary Guidelines.
This is another controversial area that some would now disagree with that I address the aforementioned Adjusted Values article. Basically, there is a relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol, but it is hard to quantify. My own personal experiment showed that consuming more dietary cholesterol elevated my blood cholesterol level, but not excessively, as long as I kept it to about 600 mg.
The next dietary component is sodium:
The scientific consensus from expert bodies, such as the IOM, the American Heart Association, and Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees, is that average sodium intake, which is currently 3,440 mg per day (see Chapter 2), is too high and should be reduced. Healthy eating patterns limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day for adults and children ages 14 years and older.…
This is again a controversial issue that I address in my Adjusted Values article and that I experimented on myself with. Increasing my sodium intake from less than 2,300 mg to 3,000 mg did increase my blood pressure; but it is still within healthy levels, only because it was too low to begin with.
The final dietary component is alcohol:
The Dietary Guidelines does not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason. If alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age. There are also many circumstances in which individuals should not drink, such as during pregnancy.
Alcohol contains calories but no nutrients. It is thus another form of empty calories. For that reason alone, its intake should be limited. But the potential problems from excessive intake go far beyond excessive calorie consumption. There is some evidence that moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial, but the potential risks far outweigh the possible benefits. That is why the USDA says to not start drinking if you are not already doing so. I concur, and say so in my God-given Foods Eating Plan book.
Current Eating Patterns
Chapter Two of the Guidelines is “Shifts Needed To Align With Healthy Eating Patterns.” It begins by looking at what American are currently eating, and the picture is not good.
About three-fourths of the population has an eating pattern that is low in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and oils.
More than half of the population is meeting or exceeding total grain and total protein foods recommendations, but, as discussed later in the chapter, are not meeting the recommendations for the subgroups within each of these food groups.
Most Americans exceed the recommendations for added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.
In addition, the eating patterns of many are too high in calories….
Only 20 percent of adults meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.
The mention of “subgroups” in the second line is due to Americans not consuming sufficient whole grains, seafood, and legumes. All of these poor habits contribute to the fact that, “more than two-thirds of all adults and nearly one-third of all children and youth in the United States are either overweight or obese.” This all in turn leads to many health problems experienced by Americans, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. This poor eating pattern also leads to nutritional deficiencies in the current American diet:
Although the majority of Americans consume sufficient amounts of most nutrients, some nutrients are consumed by many individuals in amounts below the Estimated Average Requirement or Adequate Intake levels. These include potassium, dietary fiber, choline, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, D, E, and C. Iron also is under-consumed by adolescent girls and women ages 19 to 50 years. Low intakes for most of these nutrients occur within the context of unhealthy overall eating patterns, due to low intakes of the food groups—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy—that contain these nutrients.
Thus Americans are consuming too much of detrimental elements of food while not consuming sufficient amounts of the beneficial elements of foods.
The rest of this chapter describes the changes needed in people’s eating plans to correct these deficiencies. But most of them are self-evident. Americans need to consume more fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of refined grains, while reducing overall grain consumption, replace some meat consumption with seafood and legumes, and to exercise more.
Consuming less processed foods and more unprocessed foods would go a long way towards the reduction of the overconsumption of sugars, saturated fats, sodium, and calories. As the Guidelines puts it:
Achieving a healthy eating pattern means shifting typical food choices to more nutrient-dense options—that is, foods with important nutrients that aren’t packed with extra calories or sodium. Nutrient-dense foods and beverages are naturally lean or low in solid fats and have little or no added solid fats, sugars, refined starches, or sodium.
The Guidelines provide specifics in these regards, as I do in my Eating Plan book. The chapter concludes with the following summary:
The U.S. population, across almost every age and sex group, consumes eating patterns that are low in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, seafood, and oil and high in refined grains, added sugars, saturated fats, sodium, and for some age-sex groups, high in the meats, poultry, and eggs subgroup.
Everyone Has a Role in Supporting Healthy Eating Patterns
The third and last chapter of the Guidelines is titled, “Everyone Has a Role in Supporting Healthy Eating Patterns.” It begins, “… collective action is needed to create a new paradigm in which healthy lifestyle choices at home, school, work, and in the community are easy, accessible, affordable, and normative.” What follows are recommendations for changing people’s and society’s attitudes towards food.
This is attitude shift is sorely needed. Much of my country’s poor eating habits is due to habit and tradition, most of which is relatively new, having originated in the past century or less. And I am all for the government encouraging businesses and other organizations to provide healthy foods and opportunities for exercise. However, I would be absolutely opposed to the government forcing such entities to do so via governmental regulations or taxation. As much as I desire for people to follow healthy habits, it should ultimately their choice. But I agree with the next point to encourage them to choose the healthy options:
Education to improve individual food and physical activity choices can be delivered by a wide variety of nutrition and physical activity professionals working alone or in multidisciplinary teams.
Such education is exactly what I try to provide in my newsletter, on my website, and in my -related books. But in addition to this general education, personal one-on-one education can be beneficial:
Professionals can work with individuals in a variety of settings to adapt their choices to develop a healthy eating pattern tailored to accommodate physical health, cultural, ethnic, traditional, and personal preferences, as well as personal food budgets and other issues of accessibility. Eating patterns tailored to the individual are more likely to be motivating, accepted, and maintained over time, thereby having the potential to lead to meaningful shifts in dietary intake, and consequently, improved health.
This online book concludes with 14 appendixes. Most of these provide data related to the main chapters, such as providing lists of the amounts of various nutrients in various foods and details on what constitutes a serving of the various food groups.
The appendix that provides some new information is: “Appendix 7. Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations.” It is here that the USDAs guidelines for “Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges” (AMDR) is given. They are arranged by age and gender. But for me (a 51+ male), the recommendations are as follows:
Calories) – 2 ,000
Protein, g – 56
Protein, % kcal – 10-35
Carbohydrate, g – 130
Carbohydrate, % kcal – 45-65
Dietary Fiber, g – 28
Added sugars, % kcal – <10%
Total fat, % kcal – 20-35
Saturated fat, % kcal – <10%
For comparison, below are my average values for 2015:
Calories – 2242
Protein – 158 g – 26%
Carb – 260.0 g – 43%
Dietary Fiber – 46.1 g
Sugars – 12.7%
Total Fat – 31%
Saturated Fat – 7.4%
It can be seen that I am consuming more calories than is recommended, but that is due to the calories expended in my powerlifting training. I am also consuming about triple the number of grams of recommended protein. But that is again due to my powerlifting training, as I have found a high protein diet is essential for adequate recovery and progress. But percentage-wise, my level is within the recommended range.
I’m consuming twice the recommended grams of carbs but less than the recommend percentage. That is because I have found a higher carb intake plays havoc with my bool sugar levels due to my hypoglycemia. I am consuming near the higher end of the recommended range of total fats. That is due to knowing that fats elevate testosterone levels, but I still following the guideline of consuming less than 10% saturated fat. That is due to an emphasis on monounsaturated fats.
My level of sugars is higher than recommended, but that is simply due to the software program I use for evaluating my diet does not distinguish between added and naturally-occurring sugars. If it did, my level of added sugars would be well below 10%. My fiber level is much higher than the recommended amount, but that is because I have found that to be beneficial for “elimination” purposes.
All of this is explained in detail in the aforementioned Adjusted Values article and in my Eating Plan book. But the point is, it is hard to make blanket recommendations for macronutrient levels, as everyone is different. It is thus good that the Guidelines only put this in an appendix and use such wide ranges.
What is Not Discussed
That concludes my review of what is presented in the Guideline’s online book. But I have to mention some points that are not discussed, but which I believe are very important.
The first issue is organic produce versus commercial produce. The Guidelines do not mention this, but personally, I have found it vital for me to consume organic produce, as I am sensitive to the pesticides and chemical fertilizers used on commercial produce. And many have found health benefits by eliminating such chemicals from their eating plans.
Second and similarly, there is no mention of artificial food ingredients, except for artificial sweeteners, which the Guidelines call “high-intensity sweeteners” and state about:
High-intensity sweeteners that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), and sucralose. Based on the available scientific evidence, these high-intensity sweeteners have been determined to be safe for the general population. This means that there is reasonable certainty of no harm under the intended conditions of use because the estimated daily intake is not expected to exceed the acceptable daily intake for each sweetener.
But again, I am sensitive to most artificial sweeteners, along with most artificial flavorings, colorings, and preservatives. It is thus essential for my health to avoid them all and to only eat all-natural foods. And again, many others have also found this to be true.
Third, there is no mention of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). But many believe that GMO foods carry health risks.
And finally, there is no mention about the manner in which cattle and other livestock are raised. This is probably why the Guidelines state:
Strong evidence from mostly prospective cohort studies but also randomized controlled trials has shown that eating patterns that include lower intake of meats as well as processed meats and processed poultry are associated with reduced risk of CVD in adults. Moderate evidence indicates that these eating patterns are associated with reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer in adults.
However, I would contend that these detrimental aspects of a high meat intake are only due to the way the majority of cattle and other livestock are raised and fed in America. The animals are confined to small stalls, with little movement possible, kept indoors, with no sunshine, and fed grains, usually GMO corn or soy, and given hormones and antibiotics. Such practices produce a meat that is far different than that found in organic, pasture-raised, green-fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free cattle. I would contend that if studies would be done comparing these two types of meat, it would be found that only the former carry adverse health effect, while the latter would be proven to be beneficial health-wise. I am also sensitive to commercial meat, probably due to the use of hormone sand antibiotics, but can eat the latter form of meat without problems.
Along these lines, the Guidelines state, “Meat, also known as red meat, includes all forms of beef, pork, lamb, veal, goat, and non-bird game (e.g., venison, bison, and elk).” But I contend that there is a difference between “pork” (meaning all forms of pig meat) and the rest of the meats mentioned. Pig meats are Biblically unclean meats while the rest are Biblically clean meats, and I believe there is a reason God made this distinction. Pigs are not fit for human consumption while the rest of the animals are.
I would probably agree with over 90% of the Guidelines. They present evidence-based, sound dietary recommendations. I would thus highly recommend the reader read through the website for the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for America and put the Guidelines into practice.For more information and help in this regard, see my God-given Foods Eating Plan book and the Nutrition section of my website. Just take note of my few minor disagreements with the Guidelines. I discuss these points at length in my writings.
2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: A Review. Copyright © 2016 by Gary F. Zeolla.
Disclaimers: The material presented in this article is intended for educational purposes only. The author is not offering medical or legal advice. Accuracy of information is attempted but not guaranteed. Before undertaking any diet, exercise, or health improvement program, one should consult your doctor. The author is in no way responsible or liable for any bodily harm, physical, mental, or emotional, that results from following any of the advice in this article.
The above article was posted on this site April 2, 2016.
It originally appeared in the free email newsletter FitTips for One and All.
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