By Craig Weatherby
Every five years, the U.S. government updates its Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The Guidelines are devised jointly by the U.S. departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA).
They are used by health professionals, policy makers, and educators ... and they guide federal education and food assistance programs.
The 2010 guidelines gave seafood a big push … see Eating More Fish Advised in U.S. Diet Guidelines.
To help them with the 2015 update, the federal agencies enrolled 14 recognized experts in nutrition, medicine, and public health to serve on an Advisory Committee.
The committee held public meetings over the past two years, and its just-released recommendations will surely shape the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, set to be released later this year.
Panel advises two fish-rich diet patterns
The expert panel agreed that – compared with the standard American diet – eating patterns higher in whole plant foods and lower in calories and meat are healthier for people and the environment.
To achieve these goals, the official advisory committee recommend any of three eating plans:
Healthy U.S.-style Pattern
Healthy Vegetarian Pattern
Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern
Oddly, their report does not provide summary descriptions of any of the three patterns ... just dense tables showing the nutrient compositions of each.
But as they wrote, “A moderate amount of seafood is an important component of two of three of these dietary patterns [the Healthy U.S.-style and Mediterranean-style Patterns], and has demonstrated health benefits.”
The panel described the characteristics common to both of these non-vegetarian diet patterns:
Replace most refined grains with whole grains.
Reduce intake of sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars, and replace them with whole plant foods, seafood, and low-fat dairy.
Expert panel dismisses seafood-safety concerns
As in 2010, the government’s expert advisory panel followed the evidence when it came to the alleged risks of seafood.
This was their key statement on that point: “Regarding contaminants, for the majority of wild caught and farmed species, neither the risks of mercury nor organic pollutants outweigh the health benefits of seafood consumption.”
It’s great to see the agencies’ expert advisers urging Americans to eat more seafood … and stop worrying about misleading warnings.
The warnings – from well-meaning advocacy groups – cite hypothetical risks that have repeatedly been proven either highly exaggerated or flat wrong.
In fact, those misguided warnings are seriously counterproductive, as they may cause the very health harms – especially sub-optimal child development – they’re intended to prevent.
For more on that point, see these and other reports in the Omega-3s & Child Development section of our news archive:
U.S advisers dismiss seafood concerns
Current guidelines from the U.S. FDA and EPA advise pregnant and nursing women to eat 8-12 ounces of a variety of lower-mercury fish a week … but limit tuna consumption to six ounces per week.