Fred Hutch nutritional epidemiologist Marian Neuhouser, PhD, participated in a prestigious expert panel that advises the federal government on nutrition. The 14-member Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently reviewed published scientific evidence on whole diets and submitted recommendations that will be used by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture to write the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, scheduled to be released by the end of the year.
Data suggest a menu rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein (fish, lean meats, legumes), low-fat dairy and whole grains reduces the risk of major chronic diseases, including some cancers, cardiovascular disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Such an eating pattern also helps people achieve a healthy body weight.
For the first time, the expert panel also examined the sustainability and ecological impact of healthful dietary patterns. “While the data are somewhat limited, some evidence suggests that the same dietary patterns that confer health are also planet-friendly,” Neuhouser said. For example, plant-based diets use fewer natural resources and are less likely to contribute to pollution than meat-based diets.
In terms of American eating habits, the panel found most people still consume too much sodium, added sugars, and refined grains. “Progress needs to be made in terms of reducing these components of the diet in order to improve the health of the population as a whole,” Neuhouser said.“We need to make efforts to help people have access to healthy, affordable foods in all population sectors and at the level of the individual family, the community, schools, the workplace, and larger society.”