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  1. News Release

  2. Jun 10, 2019

Egg Industry Continues to Influence Dietary Guidelines, FOIA Document Reveals

Document Lists 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Nominators, Nominees

WASHINGTON—A U.S. Department of Agriculture document obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members—reveals that a member of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) was nominated by the United Egg Producers. The DGAC is tasked by USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services with writing a report that will influence the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“Cholesterol kills, so it’s critical to keep the egg industry from influencing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to say otherwise,” says Susan Levin, MS, RD, director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee. “The Physicians Committee fought to keep cholesterol warnings in the current guidelines, and we’ll fight to keep them in upcoming guidelines.”

After the 2015 DGAC released its report stating that cholesterol is no longer “a nutrient of concern for overconsumption,” the Physicians Committee filed a lawsuit in 2016 against USDA and HHS for violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which mandates that the advisory committee “will not be inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority or any special interest.”

According to documents obtained by the Physicians Committee, the American Egg Board had nominated one individual placed on the 2015 DGAC. A second member was actively receiving egg-industry research grants according to industry documents, and two others worked at a university that had requested and received more than $100,000 from the American Egg Board for research aimed at challenging the cholesterol limits.

In a 2013 meta-analysis on dietary cholesterol authored by one of the DGAC members from Tufts University, 92 percent of the studies reviewed were paid for by industry, mainly the egg industry. Nearly every cited study showed that eggs or other cholesterol-containing foods had an unfavorable effect on blood cholesterol levels. However, the review inappropriately concluded that the effect of dietary cholesterol on plasma lipid concentrations “is modest and appears to be limited to population subgroups.”

In 2015, researchers from the same university published a new report paid for by the Egg Nutrition Center, the research arm of the American Egg Board. Nearly every study included in the meta-analysis was funded by the American Egg Board or other industry-related sources. Specifically, 13 of the 15 included studies in the analysis of the effect of dietary cholesterol on LDL cholesterol were industry-funded.

Ultimately, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans strengthened cholesterol warnings by urging Americans to “eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible” to reduce heart disease risk. But despite this recommendation, egg consumption actually increased because of the initial DGAC comment regarding cholesterol. In 2015, Americans ate 252 eggs per person, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service. In 2016, that number rose to 268. This year, the number is projected to increase to 279.

A study published this March in JAMA found that dietary cholesterol—and eggs specifically—raise the risk for heart disease and death. Researchers from Northwestern University analyzed data from almost 30,000 participants with an average follow-up time of 17.5 years. They found that each 300-milligram dose of dietary cholesterol was associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and mortality by 17 and 18 percent, respectively. When it came to eggs, each half egg caused a 6 and 8 percent increased risk, respectively. The authors urge the reviewers of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to consider these findings in their next update.

The FOIA document obtained by the Physicians Committee lists the names the 182 people nominated to serve on the 20-person DGAC, as well as the nominators’ names and affiliations. A Physicians Committee nominee, Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, from Loma Linda University, was among those chosen for the DGAC.

Media Contact

Michael Keevican

202-527-7367

MKeevican@pcrm.org

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.

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