Coffee OK; cut red meat, tax sugary drinks

Consumers should eat less red meat, choose foods that are friendly to the environment and drink coffee. Also, local governments should consider taxing sugary drinks and food.

These were some of the recommendations contained in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s report presented last week to the secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. This report confirms the concerns the meat and livestock industries have had concerning the committee’s earlier statements and information coming from the committee’s meetings. The recommendations include:

  • Lean meat: Lean meat is not included in the description of a healthy diet, but listed as a footnote which says, “As lean meats were not consistently defined or handled similarly between studies, they were not identified as a common characteristic across the reviews. However, as demonstrated in the food pattern modeling of the Healthy U.S.-style and Healthy Mediterranean-style patterns, lean meats can be a part of a healthy dietary pattern.”
  • Red and processed meat: Lower red and processed meat consumption.
  • Sustainability: Diets higher in plant-based foods (fruits and vegetables) and lower in animal proteins is more health promoting and is associated with “positive environmental outcomes” than is the current U.S. diet. The report said, “Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy use. This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower.”
  • Coffee: Consumption of three to five cups of coffee per day is not associated with increased long-term health risks among healthy individuals.
  • Alcohol: Moderate alcohol consumption can be a component of a healthy dietary pattern and should be consumed in moderation and only by adults.
  • Sodium, saturated fats and added sugars: Reduce the average dietary intake. Replace added sugars in beverages not with low-calorie sweeteners, but with water or other healthier options.
  • Tax sugar and sodium containing foods: Local, state and federal governments should consider taxing higher sugar and sodium containing foods. The report states, “Taxation on higher sugar- and sodium-containing foods may encourage consumers to reduce consumption and revenues generated could support health promotion efforts.”

There will now be a 45-day comment period for the public to file comments on the committee’s report. Also, there will be a public meeting on March 24 in Bethesda, Md., for oral public comments. In a joint release, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and HHS said the committee’s recommendations will be considered “along with input from other federal agencies and comments from the public as they develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015, to be released later this year.” 

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