WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members—has released its recommendations for the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They include warnings against meat and dairy products and a focus on plant-based diets to help fight hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, which were already among America’s top killers and are now leading COVID-19 comorbidities.
“The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans need to focus more on recommending plant-based foods and also warning against meat and dairy products that exacerbate hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, which already kill hundreds of thousands of people each year and now make COVID-19 more severe and deadly,” says Susan Levin, MS, RD, CSSD, director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and a dietitian at the Barnard Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
On June 17, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) will meet to discuss the draft of its scientific report, which is expected to be released in July. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services will use the DGAC’s report to develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Since 1995, the Physicians Committee has successfully worked to ensure that the DGAC reveals conflicts of interest from the meat, dairy, and egg industries and that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend healthful plant-based diets and warn against consuming cholesterol and saturated fat found in animal products.
Following is a summary of the Physicians Committee’s recommendations. The complete recommendations are available at PCRM.org/DietaryGuidelines.
- Do not include a low-carbohydrate eating pattern or recommend limiting consumption of carbohydrates. Low-carbohydrate diets high in animal protein and fat have been linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, and early death. Americans already consume too few carbohydrates in the forms of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. A study in JAMA attributed 52,547 deaths from heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes in 2012 to consuming too few fruits and 53,410 deaths to consuming too few vegetables. Consuming too few whole grains was associated with 11,639 deaths from type 2 diabetes.
- Recommend water instead of milk. Dairy products are the No. 1 source of saturated fat in the American diet, which increases the risk of heart disease. Scientific evidence also shows that dairy products increase the risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers, asthma, and early death, and offer little if any protection for bone health. In July 2018, the American Medical Association passed a resolution calling on the USDA and HHS to recognize that lactose intolerance is common among many Americans, especially African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, and to clearly indicate in the guidelines and other federal nutrition guidelines that dairy products are optional.
- Warn against consuming red and processed meat. In 2015, the World Health Organization classified consumption of processed meat—such as hot dogs, bacon, and deli meat—as “carcinogenic to humans,” highlighting a meta-analysis that concluded that each 50-gram portion of processed meat (about one hot dog) eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. A study published in JAMA found that processed meat consumption was tied to 57,766 deaths from heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes in 2012. Processed meat has also been linked to hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Research shows that red meat also increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
- Continue to promote plant-based eating patterns. A plant-based diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, is full of fiber, loaded with vitamins and minerals, free of cholesterol, and low in calories and saturated fat. Plant-based diets have been proven to prevent and reverse heart disease, improve cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. They have also been show to prevent, manage, and reverse type 2 diabetes. Research shows that they may also reduce the risk for asthma and improve asthma control.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.