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  2. Jun 26, 2020

American Medical Association Says Dietary Guidelines for Americans Should Indicate ‘Meat and Dairy Products Are Optional’

by Susan Levin, MS, RD, CSSD

meat and dairy mess
Photo: Getty Images

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans should follow the recommendation of the American Medical Association—the largest organization of physicians in the United States—and state that “meat and dairy products are optional.”

It could help protect millions of Americans from obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic disease epidemics that are now making COVID-19 more severe and deadly.

The AMA made the recommendation in “Culturally Responsive Dietary and Nutritional Guidelines D-440.978,” a resolution the organization passed in 2018: “Our AMA will: … recommend that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services clearly indicate in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other federal nutrition guidelines that meat and dairy products are optional, based on an individual’s dietary needs.”

On June 17, the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) previewed the draft of its scientific report, which is expected to be made public in mid-July. The USDA and HHS will use the DGAC’s report to develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Among the recommendations the DGAC made were that the Dietary Guidelines should urge Americans to cut saturated fat and “eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.” According to data from the federal government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the top sources of saturated fat in the American diet are dairy products and meat. Animal products are the source of dietary cholesterol.

The resolution also states: “1. Our AMA and its Minority Affairs Section will: (a) encourage the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to include culturally effective guidelines that include listing an array of ethnic staples and use of multicultural symbols to depict serving size in their Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Food Guide; (b) seek ways to assist physicians with applying the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate food guide in their practices as appropriate; (c) recognize that lactose intolerance is a common and normal condition among many Americans, especially African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, with a lower prevalence in whites, often manifesting in childhood; and (d) monitor existing research and identify opportunities where organized medicine can impact issues related to obesity, nutritional and dietary guidelines, racial and ethnic health disparities as well as assist physicians with delivering culturally effective care.”

The Physicians Committee’s recommendations for the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include:

  • Do not include a low-carbohydrate eating pattern or recommend limiting consumption of carbohydrates. 
  • Recommend water instead of milk. 
  • Warn against consuming red and processed meat. 
  • Continue to promote plant-based eating patterns. 

The complete recommendations are available at PCRM.org/DietaryGuidelines

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