U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sylvia M. Burwell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack released updated nutritional guidelines that encourage Americans to adopt a series of science-based recommendations to improve how they eat to reduce obesity and prevent chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans features evidence-based nutrition recommendations and serves to provide the general public, as well as policy makers and health professionals with the information they need to help the public make informed choices about their diets at home, school, work and in their communities.

“Protecting the health of the American public includes empowering them with the tools they need to make healthy choices in their daily lives,” said Secretary Burwell in a statement. “By focusing on small shifts in what we eat and drink, eating healthy becomes more manageable. The Dietary Guidelines provide science-based recommendations on food and nutrition so people can make decisions that may help keep their weight under control, and prevent chronic conditions, like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.”

The new 8th edition of the Dietary Guidelines reflects advancements in scientific understanding about healthy eating choices and health outcomes over a lifetime, according to the departments. This edition recognizes the importance of focusing not on individual nutrients or foods in isolation, but on the variety of what people eat and drink — healthy eating patterns as a whole — to bring about lasting improvements in individual and population health.

“The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is one of many important tools that help to support a healthier next generation of Americans,” said Secretary Vilsack. “The latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines provides individuals with the flexibility to make healthy food choices that are right for them and their families and take advantage of the diversity of products available, thanks to America’s farmers and ranchers.”

The specific recommendations fit into five overarching guidelines in the new edition:

·         Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks that a person eats over time.

·         Focus on variety, nutrient-dense foods, and serving sizes.

·         Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake.

·         Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.

·         Support healthy eating patterns for all.

Under the Beverages section, the Dietary Guidelines note that beverages might not always be considered when accounting for overall food intake but remain an important part of eating patterns.

“In addition to water, the beverages that are most commonly consumed include sugar-sweetened beverages, milk and flavored milk, alcoholic beverages, fruit and vegetable juices, and coffee and tea,” the Guidelines states. “Beverages vary in their nutrient and calorie content. Some, like water, do not contain any calories. Some, like soft drinks, contain calories but little nutritional value. Finally, some, like milk and fruit and vegetable juices, contain important nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and vitamin D, in addition to calories.”

The following are some of the beverage consumption recommendations:

·         Calorie-free beverages (especially water) and nutrient-filled drinks (fat-free or low-fat milk and 100 percent juices) should be the primary consumed beverages.

·         Milk and 100 percent fruit juice should be consumed with recommended food groups and calorie limits.

·         Sugar-sweetened beverages (carbonated soft drinks, sports drinks, juice drinks) should be within overall calorie limits and limits for calories from added sugars.

·         High-intensity sweeteners found in diet beverages might reduce calorie intake in the short-term, yet questions remain about their effectiveness as a long-term weight management strategy.

·         Moderate intake of alcohol drinks and overall calorie limits apply.

·         Coffee, tea and flavored waters can be selected, but calories from cream, added sugars and other additions should be accounted for within the eating pattern.

Following the release of the Dietary Guidelines, the American Beverage Association (ABA), Washington, D.C., released a statement: “We appreciate the extensive work in developing the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. We fully support the goal to help Americans achieve and maintain a healthy weight. America's beverage companies are doing their part to help people manage their calorie and sugar intake by providing a wide range of beverage choices, a variety of package sizes and clear, easy-to-read calorie information — on package and at point of purchase — to help them make the choice that's right for them. With our Balance Calories Initiative, we are working toward a common goal of reducing beverage calories in the American diet. This is a meaningful initiative that will have significant real-world impact in helping people reduce their consumption of calories and sugar from beverages.”

Joe Doss, president and chief executive officer of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), Alexandria, Va., also applauded the HHS and USDA’s latest efforts. “Water, including bottled water, helps people pursue a healthy lifestyle and avoid sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and we are happy to see the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) reflect this important fact,” he said. “Water also plays a vital role in supporting nutritional health. Because 47 percent of added sugars in our diets come from beverages — and 20 percent of our daily caloric intake — it is clear that Americans need guidance on how to be more aware of what they drink and to reduce their calorie consumption from beverages.”

Sam Zakhari, Distilled Spirits Council senior vice president of science and former division director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, stated: “Moderate and responsible beverage alcohol consumption by adults can be part of a healthy lifestyle and diet choice. As with all things, moderation is the key, and the 2015 Dietary Guidelines also make this clear.”

The 2015 Guidelines define moderate drinking for adults of legal drinking age as up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.  According to the Guidelines, if consumed in moderation, alcohol “can help individuals achieve healthy eating patterns.”

The Guidelines define a standard drink — or a one-drink equivalent —  as 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (40 percent alcohol-by-volume), 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol-by-volume) and 12 ounces of regular beer (5 percent alcohol-by-volume).  Each of these standard drinks contain 14 grams (0.6 fluid ounces) of pure alcohol, according to the Guidelines.

“In keeping with the longstanding dietary science, the Guidelines reaffirm that a standard drink of beer, wine and distilled spirits each contains the same amount of alcohol,” Zakhari said.  He noted that, as a matter of health and public policy, this important fact is utilized by the public health community, leading federal agencies on alcohol matters and state education authorities in materials such as driver’s manuals across the United States.