Dennis T. Gordon

As the process moves ahead to review updated nutritional and health-related data in setting the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is an opportune time to reflect on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and some unfinished business that should be addressed in the new guidelines.

The 2010 guidelines listed, for the first time, four nutrients that did not meet current Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) in the American diet. These nutrients of public health concern are calcium, dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin D. However, the guidelines did not provide information as to how these inadequacies could be overcome or the extent of the shortfall.

Meeting our DRI for all nutrients is associated with improved health. And many health professionals feel these deficits still exist. How the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee may address these issues remains unknown.

Taking the position that the differences between estimated intakes of these four nutrients and their DRI values still exists, I offer these suggestions. While nutritionists and health professionals make recommendations on what to eat or avoid, they might not have a total picture or perspective as to what the food industry can or cannot do to strengthen the nutritional quality of foods and diets. With all due respect to the nutrition and health communities, it must be recognized that the food industry feeds America and the world.

In this regard, the three suggestions offered here are an encouragement for more productive communication among 1) the nutrition and health communities who evaluate nutritional needs, 2) the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS) which evaluates food and nutrient consumption patterns, and 3) the food industry which can work with both bodies to make appropriate changes in our food supply. While it appears Nos. 1 and 2 are in close communication and cooperation, input from the food industry is not part of the dialogue.

Here are some examples to illustrate my point. The current DRI (more accurately the Adequate Intake [AI] value within the DRI) for dietary fiber is 25 g and 38 g/day for women and men, respectively. These recommended levels are based on protection against cardiovascular disease. Current average intake of dietary fiber is under 18 g/day. It is also interesting to note and generally accepted that individuals consuming 50 g/day are better able to control their blood glucose levels than individuals consuming less than 50 g. Is it possible to fortify flour with a source of added fiber as defined by the Institute of Medicine? Could whole grain foods be fortified, as consumers equate whole grain to fiber?

Vitamin D is among the most regulated nutrients added to foods. The traditional source of vitamin D has been milk and its consumption continues to decline. Almost every general nutrition article on vitamin D refers to the use of a supplement. Along with vitamin D and calcium, what food or beverage could be produced to help in the intake of these two nutrients to meet the needs for all, and especially children? How could school lunch programs be improved with these nutrients?

The potassium issue is related to sodium and gradual reduction of sodium in the diet is one solution; a voluntary 2% reduction in all processed foods for 10 years. These are just ideas.

While these suggestions are helpful, a letter of support and encouragement to the food industry from the UDSA might be best. Thus, the USDA should begin a dialogue with the food industry to address issues of nutrient shortfalls. Because of its leadership in science and technology and multidisciplinary membership among industry, academia, and government, IFT could play a leading role in this endeavor and could identify groups for each of the four nutrients.

The tentative charge to each group from a food industry perspective would be to 1) identify those foods providing a significant amount of the nutrient, 2) provide a best estimate as to the amount the nutrient is meeting an individual’s intake versus need, based on actual food availability, and 3) suggest ways the food supply could be improved for these nutrients. In accomplishing these charges to any group, the input and participation of the USDA/ARS with their available information would be a must.

A summation of these efforts would be to contribute the opinions of the food industry to the scope of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, it is acknowledged that the food industry does not formulate dietary guidelines. We have had three decades of guidelines with limited changes in consumer behavior. Modifying foods people are eating will improve nutrient profiles and, presumably, the health of Americans.

The American food supply can and should continue to provide for an individual’s adequate nutrient needs. While there is a time and place for supplements, foods should be the primary source of our nourishment. Communication and compromise can be productive.

Dennis T. Gordon, Ph.D., a professional member
of IFT, is Professor Emeritus, North Dakota State
University, Puget Island, Cathlamet, WA 98612
([email protected])

About the Author

Dennis T. Gordon, PhD, is a member of IFT, is professor emeritus, North Dakota State University ([email protected]).