The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) on July 15 released a nearly 850-page scientific report of recommendations to the USDA and Health and Human Services (HHS) that will serve as a benchmark for the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) slated to be finalized by end of year.

Judie Bizzozero, Content Director

July 21, 2020

4 Min Read
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Recommendations from the DGAs (read the full report here) provide the basis for federal food and nutrition policy and education initiatives. The guidelines encourage Americans to focus on eating a healthful diet—one that focuses on foods and beverages that promote health and prevent chronic disease.

The committee concluded that dietary patterns rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, and seafood, and lower in red and processed meats, refined grains, and foods and beverages high in added sugars are associated with a lower risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hip fracture, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and all-cause mortality.

“Science-based dietary guidance is critical to ensuring a healthy future for America,” said USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps. “USDA greatly appreciates the high-quality work done by this committee comprised of our nation’s leading scientists and dietary experts. We look forward to thoroughly reviewing the report and leveraging their scientific advice as we partner with HHS to develop the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

The report’s executive summary called out five key concerns—Dietary Fats and Seafood, Beverages, Alcoholic Beverages, Added Sugars, and Frequency of Eating.

Dietary fats and seafood

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encouraged replacement of saturated fat with unsaturated fat while keeping saturated fat intake to less than 10% of calories per day. The 2020 Committee identified saturated fat as a nutrient of concern for overconsumption because saturated fat intakes exceed current recommendations. The Committee continued to call for reducing saturated fat intake and replacing it with unsaturated fats, specifically polyunsaturated fat to reduce the incidence of CVD. Replacing saturated with unsaturated fats in the diet also reduces serum total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in all adults and some children, especially boys. However, the benefits of replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates are less clear. In addition, because dietary cholesterol is found only in animal-source foods that are typically also sources of saturated fat, the independent effects of dietary cholesterol on CVD are difficult to assess. The report called for a healthy dietary pattern consisting of higher intakes low-fat dairy, lean meat and poultry, and fatty fish and lower intakes of red and processed meats.

Added sugars

The 2015-2020 DGAs recommended Americans to limit their consumption of added sugars to 10% or less of their total caloric intake. This new report urges Americans to cut their added sugar intake to 6%. The Committee said nearly 70% of added sugars intake comes from five food categories—sweetened beverages, desserts and sweet snacks, coffee and tea (with their additions), candy and sugars, and breakfast cereals and bars.


The Committee reviewed available data on the relationships between beverage consumption and achieving nutrient and food group recommendations. It also examined evidence on the relationship between beverage consumption and growth, size, body composition, and risk of overweight and obesity for children and adults. All beverages contribute to hydration needs, and many beverages, such as milk and 100% juice, can help people attain recommended nutrient intake goals. Other beverages, such as sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), provide energy but contribute very little toward meeting nutrient and food group recommendations. Sweetened beverages, not including coffee and tea with added sugar, account for approximately one-third of total beverage consumption and contribute approximately 30%, 50%, and 60% of added sugars to the diet of young children, adolescents and adults, respectively. The report urges Americans to limit intake of SSB, replacing them with low- or no-calorie sweetened beverages.

Alcoholic beverages

Previous DGAs have recommended men limit themselves to two drinks per day, defined as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. Women have been advised to limit themselves to one drink per day. The 2020 report said the focus should remain on reducing consumption among those who drink, particularly among those who drink in ways that increase the risk of harms. In fact, the report lowered the recommendation for men to one drink per day and kept the same recommendation for women.

Frequency of eating

The Committee examined national cross-sectional data to learn about the state of eating frequency in the United States and conducted a systematic review of studies to examine the relationships between eating frequency and growth, body size and composition, overweight and obesity, CVD, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality. Although the Committee was unable to find adequate evidence to answer the questions on the relationship between eating frequency and health outcomes, its analysis of eating frequency in the United States revealed a wide variety of eating frequency patterns that varied by socioeconomic and demographic factors. Diet quality was higher when self-reported meal intake increased from 2 meals per day to 3, whereas late-night eating often contained food components recommended to be consumed in moderation. Despite the importance of this topic, the available evidence for many questions was insufficient to form conclusion statements, highlighting the critical need for additional research.

Next steps

USDA and HHS are accepting written public comments on the committee’s final report through Aug. 13, 2020. The public will have an opportunity to provide oral comments on the scientific report to the departments at a public meeting on Aug. 11, 2020.

About the Author(s)

Judie Bizzozero

Content Director, Informa Markets Health & Nutrition

Judie Bizzozero oversees food and beverage content strategy and development for the Health & Nutrition group at Informa Markets (which acquired VIRGO in 2014), including the Food & Beverage Insider, Natural Products Insider and SupplySide/Food ingredients North America brands. She reports on market trends, science-based ingredients, and challenges and solutions in the development of healthy foods and beverages. Bizzozero graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

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