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For First Time, Dietary Guidelines Recommend Limits on Sugar Consumption

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released revised dietary guidelines that offer recommendations on ways Americans can adopt healthy eating patterns. Importantly, the guidelines call for limiting added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium in Americans’ diets. We applaud the government’s decision to limit added sugar to 10% or less of a person’s daily calories.

The 2010 guidelines recommended a general reduction in sweetened foods and beverages, but thanks to a thorough review of the latest science by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, consumers now know how much is too much. While the guidelines decline to set a clear limit on sugary drink consumption, recommending instead “making healthier food and beverage choices,” USDA through its MyPlate tool and others can translate these recommendations on nutrients to more specific and consumer-oriented language, and we encourage them to do so. In the meantime, however, the clear 10% limit is an important step in the effort to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease in our country.

Congress and USDA should consider whether the limit on added sugar could also inform their thinking about other nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. To further their understanding, Congress should commission the National Academy of Medicine to define the types and amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages that could be removed from these federal nutrition programs. While not as concrete and specific in some areas as we would have liked, the guidelines’ clear limit on added sugar marks an important development in nutrition advice to Americans.

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