New Dietary Guidelines for Americans focus on reducing added sugars

January 7, 2016

The U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) and Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) have announced the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), which includes updated guidance on topics such as added sugars, sodium, and cholesterol, and new information on caffeine. Released every five years, the 8th edition recognizes the importance of focusing not on individual nutrients or foods in isolation, but on the variety of what people eat and drink—healthy eating patterns as a whole—to bring about lasting improvements in individual and population health.

Since its debut in 1980, much of the advice in the DGA has not changed dramatically, emphasizing eating more fruits and vegetables, moderation, and variety. However, the latest edition does contain some new recommendations on the following topics:

  • Added Sugars: Limit intake of added sugars to less than 10% of total calories per day. In 2010, the DGA recommended limiting intake of solid fats and added sugars to “no more than about 5–15% of calories.” Currently, Americans consume 13–17% of calories from added sugars.
  • Sodium: While the 2015–2020 and 2010 DGAs both recommend reducing daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg, the 2010 DGA proposed lower intakes for certain population subgroups, such as those aged 51+, African Americans, or those with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. However, according to the IOM, there is no evidence to support treating population subgroups differently from the general population or to indicate a benefit from lowering sodium intake below the then recommended 2,300 mg per day.
  • Cholesterol: The 2015–2020 DGA make no recommendation to limit cholesterol. This is a big change from the 2010 DGA recommendation that Americans limit dietary cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day. Why the change? Evidence is mounting that dietary cholesterol doesn’t have a major effect on blood cholesterol levels. Additionally, NHANES data shows that the average intake of cholesterol for Americans is 267 mg, so there is no need to stress the limitation of it in the DGA.
  • Caffeine: While previous editions of the DGA did not make any recommendations on caffeine or coffee intake, the 2015–2020 DGA states that moderate caffeine consumption (up to 400 mg/day, or three to five 8-oz cups of coffee a day) can be incorporated into healthy eating patterns. However, it is suggested that “people who do not currently consume caffeine (in various forms) are not encouraged to begin.”

Overall, the 2015–2020 DGA recommendations fit into five overarching guidelines:

  • Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks that a person eats over time
  • Focus on variety, nutrient-dense foods, and amount
  • Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake
  • Shift to healthier food and beverage choices
  • Support healthy eating patterns for all

Healthy eating patterns include a variety of nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy, lean meats and other protein foods, and oils, while limiting saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, and sodium. Importantly, the guidelines suggest Americans should consume:

  • A variety of vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy and other vegetables
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds
  • Oils, including those from plants: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower. Oils also are naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, and avocados.

Want to learn more about the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans? Register to attend IFT’s live webcast taking place Jan. 13 at 11:00 a.m. central time.

2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines

Press release