Seeing Red in Dietary Advice
Thu Feb 19, 2015 03:49 PM CST
(Page 1 of 3)
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's report downplays the health role of lean meat in a diet while also advising Americans to reduce eating red and processed meat, refined grains, added sugars and sodium. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Groups representing the meat industry were ready to pounce Thursday when the long-awaited report by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee came out.

As feared by the meat industry, the committee's report downplays the health role of lean meat in a diet while also advising Americans to reduce eating red and processed meat, refined grains, added sugars and sodium. The report also recommended replacing solid animal fats with vegetable oils and nuts.

Such a recommendation to cut consumption of red and processed meats is anathema to the meat industry, which invests millions of dollars each in year in research and promotion to get consumers to eat more beef and pork.

The North American Meat Institute pointed out that the term "lean meat" had been moved from being a recommended food to being a footnote in the committee's recommendations. The committee noted, "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."

The meat institute stated the committee "ignores the countless studies and data that the committee reviewed for the last two years that showed unequivocally that meat and poultry are among the most nutrient-dense foods available. Nutrient-dense lean meat is a headline, not a footnote."

The committee's report upholds the notion of a healthy Mediterranean diet. NAMI pointed out the contradiction there. "The committee's contradictory advice to reduce processed meats is also nonsensical, especially given data the committee reviewed about the Mediterranean diet."

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association offered similar criticism. Shalene McNeill, a registered dietitian with NCBA, said the recommendation lowering red meat consumption is not consistent with scientific evidence and would be unsound dietary advice.

"Lean meat is red meat. Today's beef supply is leaner than ever before with more than 30 cuts of beef recognized as lean by government standards," McNeill said. "The protein foods category, which includes meat, is the only category currently consumed within the current guidelines, and it is misleading to conclude that a healthy dietary pattern should be lower in red meat."

The report recommended adopting a "healthy" U.S, Mediterranean-style or vegetarian diet that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and meat. The meat industry disputed that interpretation on meat consumption in a Mediterranean diet.

The report, though, also showed how dietary advice can change over time. The dietary committee chose to drop the long-standing recommendation that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg per day. That decision is likely to please the egg and meat industries, but has also raised questions about whether Americans can trust the government's dietary guidance since government and private medical experts have recommended reducing cholesterol for years.

But the committee said that the latest scientific research had changed their minds.

"Available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol," the committee said, concluding "cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption."

The dietary committee's report also recommended local, state and federal governments to create incentives for healthy eating lifestyles. Regarding disincentives for certain foods, the committee recommended taxing foods with higher sugar and sodium levels.

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