The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific?BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h4962 (Published 23 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4962
- Nina Teicholz, journalist, New York City, USA
The expert report underpinning the next set of US Dietary Guidelines for Americans fails to reflect much relevant scientific literature in its reviews of crucial topics and therefore risks giving a misleading picture, an investigation by The BMJ has found. The omissions seem to suggest a reluctance by the committee behind the report to consider any evidence that contradicts the last 35 years of nutritional advice.
Issued once every five years, the guidelines have a big influence on diet in the US, determining nutrition education, food labeling, government research priorities at the National Institutes of Health, and public feeding programs, which are used by about a quarter of Americans each year.1 The guidelines, which were first issued in 1980, have also driven nutrition policy globally, with most Western nations subsequently adopting similar advice.
The guidelines are based on a report produced by a dietary guidelines advisory committee—a group of 11-15 experts who are appointed to review the best and most current science to make nutrition recommendations that both promote health and fight disease. The committee’s latest report was published in February2 and is under review by the government’s health and agricultural agencies, which will finalize the guidelines in the fall.
Concern about this year’s report has been unprecedented, with some 29 000 public comments submitted compared with only 2000 in 2010. In recent months, as government officials convert the scientific report into the guidelines, Congress has sought to intervene. In June, it proposed a requirement that the guidelines be based exclusively on “strong” science and also that they …