New US Dietary Guidelines Ignore Scientists’ Advice on Alcohol Restrictions

Illustration for article titled New US Dietary Guidelines Ignore Scientists' Advice on Alcohol Limits

Photo: Carl Hof (Getty Images)

The latest nutritional guidelines from the US federal government are not available, and there are some surprising omissions. Although the guidelines still emphasize the value of a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables, it does not recommend that American men reduce alcohol significantly – unlike the advice given by the government earlier this year.

The American Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years and are intended to reflect the current scientific consensus on nutrition. Although these are only recommendations, they form federal policies and programs that focus on nutrition, such as school meal programs, and they also affect the food and restaurant industry.

As part of the update process, the government is bringing together a panel of outside advisers to examine the latest nutrition research and, if necessary, propose changes. In July, their draft report was released. Among other things, the panel called for a clear change in how much alcohol men should drink. They asked for the guidelines to recommend that men do not drink more than one alcoholic beverage per day on days they drink, from the previous limit of 2 beverages per day. Women, as before, will be advised to stick to one drink a day as well. This does not mean that it is good to drink one drink every day, but that you should limit yourself to one on the day you do drink (which hopefully is not every day).

This change was intended to recognize the growing research that even the use of light alcohol is not as safe as is commonly believed, and to encourage Americans to drink when possible, the authors at the time said. Alcohol contributes to fatal car accidents, increases the risk of cancer, liver and heart disease and can affect cognition.

The final version of the guidelines, released Tuesday, also includes other changes proposed by the panel, such as indicating the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding and recommending that pregnant women include seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury. It also contains a language stating that the ‘evidence supports the restriction of the intake of added sugars and alcoholic beverages to promote health and prevent disease’. But they do not explicitly endorse the recommended changes in reducing alcohol consumption and added sugars, arguing that the ‘evidence revised since the 2015-2020 edition does not currently substantiate quantitative changes.’

The nutrition guidelines are the result of a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Human and Health Services. During the current Trump administration, both federal agencies have been accused by scientists and lawmakers of eroding science-based policies as well as officials silence and punish who do not agree with the White House. At least some nutritionists are not happy with the language that has now been removed from the dietary guidelines.

“Despite repeated claims that the guidelines are scientifically based, the Trump agencies ignored the recommendation of the scientific committee they appointed and instead returned to the recommendation of the previous guidelines,” said Marion Nestle, a nutritionist and well-known author, said. tell the New York Times.

Just because the new guidelines do not command us to limit our drinking, does not mean we should not reduce it a bit. After all, a large global study in 2018 concluded that there no safe level of alcohol use. At least a quarter of American adults engaged liquor drink last year, while an estimated 14 million Americans have alcohol disorder. In total, alcohol will kill about 95,000 Americans a year, making it the second deadliest drug behind tobacco.