Mixed on meat consumption?

by Erica Shaffer
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Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focuses on shifts in eating patterns.

WASHINGTON – The new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans calls for men and teenage boys to reduce consumption of meat, poultry and eggs while advocating a shift to a variety of proteins.

The guidelines note that, overall, average intakes of proteins are close to amounts recommended for all age and gender groups. But intakes of protein subgroups vary. For example:

• average intakes of seafood are low for all age-sex groups;
• average intakes of nuts, seeds, and soy products are close to recommended levels; and
• average intakes of meats, poultry, and eggs are high for teen boys and adult men.

“Strategies to increase the variety of protein foods include incorporating seafood as the protein foods choice in meals twice per week in place of meat, poultry, or eggs, and using legumes or nuts and seeds in mixed dishes instead of some meat or poultry,” the guidelines state.

Teen boys and adult men also need to reduce overall intake of protein foods by decreasing consumption of meats, poultry and eggs and increasing amounts of vegetables or other under-consumed food groups, the guidelines stated.

Still, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) praised the guidelines for reaffirming the role of meat and poultry in a healthy balanced diet.

“The important takeaway for people regarding meat and poultry consumption is that they fit within a healthy dietary pattern and can be included in a variety of ways,” Eric Mittenthal, vice president of public affairs, said in an e-mail to MEAT+POULTRY. “It is notable that while the Dietary Guidelines specify certain shifts that can be made for different populations, the report also recognizes that people can achieve their dietary goals with many different foods and patterns.”

Barry Carpenter, president and CEO of NAMI, said in a statement that the US Dept. of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services “took great care in reviewing the science as well as comments on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report” to develop the guidelines.

“Meat and poultry products are among the most nutrient dense foods available,” Carpenter said. “They are rich sources of complete protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins, and many peer reviewed studies show the contributions they make to healthy diets and the potential deficiencies that can occur when people exclude animal proteins.

A balanced diet includes a variety of proteins, fruits, vegetables and grains
The Dietary Guidelines recommend eating a variety of proteins.

“The Dietary Guidelines confirm that a variety of dietary patterns can be followed to achieve a healthy eating pattern. Consumers who choose to eat meat and poultry, as 95 percent of Americans do, can continue to enjoy our products as they have in the past,” he added.

While acknowledging the guidance, the Natural Resources Defense Council argued the guidelines didn’t go far enough. NRDC said the guidance excluded a link between adopting diets lower in red meat consumption to additional benefits to the environment and food security.

“Eating less red meat is good for all of us and good for the planet,” Erik Olson, senior strategic director of the NRDC’s Health Program, said in a statement. “We have long known that meat has supersized impacts not only on our health, but on the environment — from intensive use of water to massive greenhouse gas pollution. These sensible changes will mean healthier school lunches for our children, better nutritional advice for all, and progress in the fight against climate change.”

But stakeholders in the meat in poultry industry vigorously argued against including the issue of sustainability in the guidelines, saying guidance on sustainability issues should come from subject-matter experts and not the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee which made recommendations that served as the basis for the guidelines.

The Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Agriculture jointly released the new guidelines, which make recommendations based on reviews of current scientific evidence on nutrition. Recommendations in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines focus on eating patterns and their food and nutrient characteristics. The new guidelines include updated guidance on added sugars, sodium and cholesterol, in addition to new information regarding caffeine. Americans are urged to consume:

• less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars;
• less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats; and
• less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium for people over the age of 14 years and less for those younger.

Also new in the guidelines is no reference to any limit on cholesterol. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines are available online.

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