United States: New Dietary Guidelines Advisory Report: Eggs And Coffee Are Back, But Sugar Is Out

Last Updated: March 13 2015
Article by Jonathan Berman

On February 19, 2015, a group of 14 outside experts who formed the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee ("Committee") released the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans ("Advisory Report") to the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Although the recommendations are nonbinding, the agencies are likely to rely on the 571-page Advisory Report in developing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015, to be jointly released by HHS and USDA later this year. HHS's Office for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion takes the administrative lead in developing the Dietary Guidelines, partnering closely with USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and USDA's Agricultural Research Service. As mandated by the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, 1 new Dietary Guidelines have been published every five years since 1980 and form the basis of federal nutrition policy, education, outreach, and food assistance programs used by consumers, industry, nutrition educators, and health professionals. The Dietary Guidelines are intended for Americans ages two and over. 

Against the backdrop of data showing that more than two-thirds of Americans are obese or overweight, the Committee concludes in the Advisory Report that "a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meats; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains." In doing so, however, the Advisory Report focuses less on individual nutrients and more on overall patterns of eating, highlighting Mediterranean-style and vegetarian diets in particular. 

While much of the Advisory Report reinforces what we saw in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, and the Committee's suggestion that we eat more fruits and vegetables is hardly radical, there are some notable changes with respect to added sugars, cholesterol, and caffeine, as discussed in more detail below.

A Focus on Sugar

Although previous Dietary Guidelines warned generally against eating too much added sugar, the Committee for the first time recommends in its Advisory Report that Americans limit their added sugars to no more than 10 percent of daily calories (roughly 12 teaspoons per day) due to the link between added sugar and obesity and chronic disease. Americans currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, with beverages supplying 47 percent of added sugars, and sweets and snacks composing 31 percent. Along those lines, the Committee suggests removing sugary drinks from schools and endorses a proposed Food and Drug Administration rule that would require added sugars to be separately and distinctly labeled on the nutrition facts panel. 2 

But the Advisory Report also warns against relying on artificial sweeteners rather than sugar, saying that there is little evidence on the long-term effects of relying on artificial sweeteners for weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. Instead, the Committee recommends drinking water in place of sweet beverages. 

The shift to focusing on sugar represents a contrast from earlier Dietary Guidelines. Starting in the 1980s, the Dietary Guidelines largely encouraged a low-fat diet, in turn triggering an explosion of sugar-loaded, low-fat processed foods. The Advisory Report reflects more recent studies showing that replacing fat with refined carbohydrates can actually threaten cardiovascular health. The recommendation is also in line with the World Health Organization's suggested goal of limiting sugars to 5 percent of daily calories. 

Looser Restrictions on Cholesterol

The Committee has eased some of the earlier restrictions on fat and cholesterol. Previously, the Dietary Guidelines recommended that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 milligrams per day. But the Advisory Report discontinues this recommendation "because available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol." In determining that "[c]holesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption," the Committee aligns itself with other major health groups, such as the American Heart Association, which recently backed away from dietary cholesterol restrictions, instead focusing on reducing added sugars. 

This recommendation echoes more recent thinking among nutritionists and researchers who have argued that the great danger comes not from eating high-cholesterol foods such as eggs, shrimp, and lobster, but instead from too many servings of foods laden with saturated fats, such as fatty meats, whole milk, and butter. 

The comparatively relaxed stance on cholesterol, however, does not apply to everyone. Experts warn that people with particular health problems, such as diabetes, should continue to avoid high-cholesterol foods. And although the Committee is no longer making a cholesterol recommendation, this new view does not undo warnings about high levels of "bad" cholesterol in the blood, which have been linked to heart disease.

Saturated Fat is Still Bad—But That Conclusion is Controversial

The Advisory Report recommends unsaturated fat—found in fish, nuts, and olive and vegetable oils—instead of saturated fat—found primarily in animal foods. The top three sources of saturated fat in the American diet are cheese, pizza, and grain-based desserts like cookies and cakes. Specifically, the Advisory Report recommends that fewer than 10 percent of calories should come from saturated fat. Sources of saturated fat should be replaced with unsaturated fat, particularly polyunsaturated fatty acids ("PUFAs"), found in vegetable oils. 

This recommendation reflects the conventional wisdom dating back to the 1950s that saturated fat increases total cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. The Committee concludes that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats, particularly PUFAs, significantly reduces total and LDL cholesterol. However, the Committee also notes that while replacing saturated fats with PUFAs can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, replacing total fat with overall carbohydrates does not lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Accordingly, the Committee recommends that dietary advice should stress "optimizing types of dietary fat and not reducing total fat." In addition, carbohydrates and added sugars should not be replaced by foods high in saturated fat, but instead should be replaced by "healthy sources of carbohydrates," such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit and "healthy sources of fats," such as non-hydrogenated vegetable oils and nuts/seeds. In other words, "[t]he consumption of 'low-fat' or 'nonfat' products with high amounts of refined grains and added sugars should be discouraged." This advice is echoed by organizations such as the American Heart Association, which recommends limiting saturated fats, although it notes that "[s]aturated fats are just one piece of the puzzle" and "you can't go wrong eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fewer calories." 

While the Committee's advice with respect to avoiding trans fats and refined carbohydrates is in line with recent trends, the Committee received some criticism from scientists and others3 regarding its advice against saturated fat. A handful of recent studies have found no significant evidence associating saturated fat with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease. Some also argue that the Dietary Guidelines' repeated warnings against saturated fat have simply encouraged increased consumption of grains and processed foods.

Caffeine is Now Okay

The Advisory Report says that healthy adults can have up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, or about three to five cups of coffee. According to the Committee, consuming this level of coffee "is not associated with increased long-term health risks among healthy individuals." Moreover, the Committee says, "consistent evidence indicates that coffee consumption is associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults" and also shows a "protective association between caffeine intake and risk of Parkinson's disease." But the Advisory Report also warns against added calories from cream and sugars. 

Keep Lowering the Salt

Since its first edition in 1980, the Dietary Guidelines have consistently recommended a reduced sodium intake due to the relationship between sodium intake and high blood pressure. Likewise, the Advisory Report states that "[sodium] consumption continues to far exceed recommendations" and identifies sodium as "ubiquitous in the current U.S. food supply" and a "nutrient of public health concern because of overconsumption." Adults who need to lower their blood pressure (about 30 percent of U.S. adults) should eat fewer than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (the equivalent of about one teaspoon of salt), or as low as 1,500 milligrams per day to further reduce blood pressure. The current average sodium intake in the United States is 3,478 milligrams per day. Mixed dishes, primarily burgers and sandwiches, are the largest contributor of sodium intake, comprising 44 percent of sodium intake in American diets. 

A New Consideration For the Environment

For the first time, the Committee explicitly considers the impact of our food choices on the environment. In its Advisory Report, the Committee notes that "[t]he major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet." The Advisory Report then specifically recommends three patterns of eating that can achieve a diet that has less environmental impact: the Healthy U.S.-style Pattern, the Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern, and the Healthy Vegetarian Pattern. (All three patterns contain two cups of fruit per day, two and a half cups of vegetables per day, three ounces of whole grains per day, three ounces of eggs per week, and 27 grams of oils per day, although the quantities of legumes, dairy, and proteins vary slightly among the three patterns.) Currently, the average U.S. diet "has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use, compared to the above dietary patterns" due to its intake of animal-based foods. 

The focus on sustainable food choices has garnered criticism from some politicians and industry groups who feel that the Committee should refrain from fusing nutrition advice with environmental outcomes. But other groups and coalitions are urging HHS and USDA to adopt the Committee's recommendations on lower meat consumption and more sustainable production.

Opportunities for Public Comment

The public can view the Advisory Report and submit comments at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov until April 8, 2015. On March 24, 2015, the public can also offer oral comments at a public meeting in Bethesda, Maryland.


1 7 U.S.C. § 5341.

2 Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels, 79 Fed. Reg. 11879 (Mar. 3, 2014).

3 See, e.g., Anahad O'Connor, "Nutrition Panel Calls for Less Sugar and Eases Cholesterol and Fat Restrictions," The New York Times, Feb. 19, 2015.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Jonathan Berman
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.