Men and teenage boys are eating too much animal protein, including meat, chicken, and eggs, according to the nation’s new dietary guidelines that include–for the first time–a recommendation for any group to reduce meat consumption.
The report notes that cutting back on meat can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
Aside from calling out men on their meat habit, the bigger change in the long-awaited final guidelines, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health on Thursday, is its call for the nation to cut back on added sugar consumption.
It advises that people limit added sugars—as opposed to sugars that are naturally occurring in foods like fruits–to 10% of daily calories. This puts the guidelines in line with advice by the World Health Organization and an improving scientific understanding of the health risks of too much sugar, including obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Keep in mind for 2,000 calorie diet, 10% is not very much–a mere 200 calories a day to allocate to soda, cookies or desserts, sugary cereal, sugar in your coffee, or whatever else you crave.
The guidelines are updated every five years and help schools craft their lunch programs, affect food stamp benefits, and can influence nutrition label regulations for product packaging.
In many ways, despite the changes, they were a win for industry lobbying. The egg industry won a victory with the removal of long-standing limits on dietary cholesterol. And according to The Verge, they were also a win for the beef and soda industries:
Even though a panel of experts convened by the government — called the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee — said that a healthy dietary pattern is “lower in red and processed meats” the new guidelines make no mention of “red meats.” In addition, the new guidelines ignore the advisory committee’s analysis that concluded that a healthy diet should be “low in sugar-sweetened drinks.”
Last, the same advisory committee recommended the new dietary guidelines take into account environmental considerations for the first time in suggesting what foods Americans should eat. That idea was nixed by Congress, however, which along with its last spending bill passed a provision that barred any environmental or food security considerations.
Will the new federal advice cure America of its bacon addiction? Hardly. Could it help slowly validate growing concerns with too much meat and sugar consumption? Hopefully, we’ll see that happen.