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General Questions

Dietary Guidelines for Americans 

  • A: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is the cornerstone of Federal nutrition policy and nutrition education activities, providing food-based recommendations to promote health, help prevent diet-related disease, and meet nutrient needs. HHS and USDA jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines every 5 years.

  • The Dietary Guidelines informs a variety of Federal activities, such as updating of nutrition standards for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Federally funded nutrition education activities also use the Dietary Guidelines to develop messages, while also tailoring where needed to meet the particular needs of a specific audience based on culture, context, life stage, and other considerations. Besides the Federal government, Tribal, state, and local governments, academic institutions, non-government organizations, and the private sector use the Dietary Guidelines to inform their research, policy, programs, and practices for public health promotion and disease prevention initiatives. 

  • A: The Dietary Guidelines was first released in 1980. In 1990, Congress passed the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, which mandates in Section 301 that HHS and USDA jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines at least every five years. The law requires that the Dietary Guidelines is based on the preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge. You can learn more about the history of the Dietary Guidelines by visiting our page on this topic. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 is the current edition until the next edition is released.

Work Underway Questions

Process for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2025-2030 

  • A: The process to develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2025-2030 began when HHS and USDA proposed scientific questions and posted them for public comment from April 15 - May 16, 2022. This was the first opportunity for public input on the Dietary Guidelines development process. 

    HHS and USDA accepted nominations from the public for the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Committee) from June 15, 2022 to July 15, 2022. To learn more, visit our page on this step in the process.

    The Committee will be established to conduct an independent, science-based review of specific scientific questions. It will meet approximately six times and all Committee meetings will be open to the public virtually. Additionally, the public will be encouraged to submit public comments throughout the course of the Committee’s operation. The Committee will develop a scientific report that will be submitted to the Secretaries of HHS and USDA. Upon delivery of its report to the Secretaries or when its 2-year charter expires (whichever comes first), the activities of the Committee will finish and the Departments will develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2025-2030, informed by the work of the Committee, federal agency input, and public comments. HHS and USDA plan to release the Dietary Guidelines by the end of 2025.

  • A: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a critical tool to improving the health of Americans, and the Departments take the responsibility for its development very seriously. USDA and HHS are continuing to address the recommendations in the previously published 2017 report, Redesigning the Process for Establishing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

    For example:

    • The Departments have taken numerous steps to enhance transparency throughout the process and are committed to these advancements in increasing transparency for the Dietary Guidelines, 2025-2030 development process.
    • USDA and HHS continue to evaluate the methodologies for NESR systematic reviews and food pattern modeling to ensure that these approaches are in line with best practices (see questions below). Additionally, NESR has developed a process called “continuous evidence monitoring” (CEM), which is a process that uses established systematic review protocols to periodically search for, screen, and prepare evidence for future systematic reviews. CEM can be used to monitor the evidence on high priority questions to help determine if sufficient new research is available to update the existing systematic reviews. 
    • USDA has initiated work with a contractor to gain insights from Federal and nonfederal experts to start the process of adapting the complex methodology of systems approaches and applying it as effectively as possible to the Dietary Guidelines process, while ensuring that the Dietary Guidelines continues to reflect the highest standard of scientific integrity and contain information adaptable for public health and consumer use. A report is expected by the end of 2023. 
  • A: NESR has maintained a robust Continuous Quality Advancement (CQA) program since its inception. Through this CQA program, NESR routinely evaluates and refines its methodology and tools to ensure that NESR’s process remains state-of the-art. CQA work results in timely updates to the NESR methodology manual, procedure, and training materials.

    Engagement with other leading systematic review organizations is a crucial component of NESR’s CQA program. NESR works to learn from the expertise of these other systematic review organizations’ methodological advances and technological infrastructure, while making sure that NESR methods are appropriate for public health nutrition decision-making. Leveraging the work of other organizations ensures NESR methodology aligns with current best practices and that staff are adequately trained, promotes efficiency and resource management, and ensures the ongoing high quality and credibility of NESR work.

  • A: As HHS and USDA prepare for the establishment of the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, continuous quality advancement efforts for food pattern modeling are underway with a focus on methods to better reflect the complex interactions involved, variability in intakes, and range of possible healthful diets. Federal staff are evaluating the analytic methods and development of data inputs and constraints for food pattern modeling and comparing them to methods used in the development of guidance in other countries, as well as other modeling exercises described in scientific publications. This effort is part of USDA and HHS’s commitment to drive continuous process advancements and adopt best practices. More information about advances to food pattern modeling analyses to support the work of the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will be provided during the Committee’s review.

  • A:  There will be multiple opportunities for public participation before, during, and after the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (Committee) review of the evidence for the Dietary Guidelines, 2025-2030. The public was invited to provide comments on proposed scientific questions and submit nominations for the 2025 Committee. Once the Committee is established, the public will be invited to attend all public Committee meetings virtually, provide public comment to the Committee throughout its work, and provide public comment to the Departments on the Committee’s report to the Secretaries.

    We encourage the public to participate in the Dietary Guidelines development process. Announcements will be made at DietaryGuidelines.gov, via the Federal Register, and through our list serv.  Sign up for email updates about the Dietary Guidelines.

Scientific Questions for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2025-2030

  • A: Identifying scientific questions helps guide the types of expertise needed on the Committee, supports an efficient and effective process, and ensures the scientific review conducted by the Committee addresses Federal nutrition policy and program needs.

    • During the public comment period on the proposed scientific questions, approximately 1,400 total public comments were received. Of those submissions, about half were identified as unique comments. HHS and USDA appreciate this input and are considering all public comments posted to Regulations.gov as we work to prioritize the questions to be examined by the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. You can view the public comments on the proposed scientific questions by visiting our page on Regulations.gov (Docket ID HHS-OASH-2022-0005).
  • A: The proposed scientific questions posted for public comment from April 15 – May 16, 2022 are available here. HHS and USDA are considering public comments as we work to prioritize the questions and determine if edits or changes are needed. Updated questions will be available when the Committee begins its work. 

  • A: The proposed scientific questions that will inform the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines focus on diet and health outcomes across the lifespan. Questions include the relationship between diet and risk of overweight and obesity, with a new emphasis on weight loss and weight maintenance. This new focus is because the prevalence of obesity continues to increase and is linked to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. New questions also address ultra-processed foods and food-based strategies that can be used by individuals and families to support implementation of the Dietary Guidelines. All scientific questions will be reviewed with a health equity lens to ensure that resulting guidance in the Dietary Guidelines is inclusive of people with diverse racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds. Additionally, unless a specific population is identified in the question, the question considers evidence across the lifespan, including for infants, toddlers, children, adolescents, adults, individuals who are pregnant or lactating, and older adults.

  • A: The topics of alcohol and sustainability are not on the list of questions to be examined by the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. These two topics will be addressed in separate processes.

    • Alcoholic beverages remain a high priority topic, but because it requires significant, specific expertise and has unique considerations, it will be examined in a separate effort led by HHS Agencies that support work on this topic.  
    • Sustainability and the complex relationship between nutrition and climate change is an important, cross-cutting, and high priority topic that also requires specific expertise. HHS and USDA will address this topic separate from the Committee’s process to inform work across the Departments.
  • A: The Departments are prioritizing scientific questions by considering public comments, Federal agency input, and research availability. HHS and USDA are considering all public comments posted to Regulations.gov in relation to the specified criteria below to determine if edits or changes are needed and to prioritize the scientific questions to be examined. These same criteria were used to identify the proposed list of questions for public comment. 

    • Relevance – Question is within scope of the Dietary Guidelines and its focus on food-based recommendations, not clinical guidelines for medical treatment.
    • Importance – Question addresses an area of substantial public health concern, uncertainty, and/or knowledge gap.
    • Potential Impact to Federal Programs – There is a high probability that the question will provide the scientific foundation for guidance that would inform Federal food and nutrition policies and programs.  
    • Avoiding Duplication – Question is not addressed through existing or planned evidence-based Federal guidance (other than the Dietary Guidelines). 

    The availability of research will also be considered when determining which scientific questions the Committee will address. Research availability will be evaluated to determine whether there is sufficient evidence available for the Committee to conduct a new, or update an existing, systematic review. If sufficient research is not available, the question will be identified as an area needing more research.   

  • A: The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will examine the body of scientific evidence available on each topic using three approaches: systematic reviews, data analysis, and food pattern modeling. This includes leveraging USDA’s Nutrition Evidence Systematic Review team, which uses rigorous and transparent methods to search for, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize all relevant peer-reviewed scientific studies to answer the scientific question. Data analysis helps to better understand the current dietary intakes and health status of Americans and ensure that the Dietary Guidelines are practical, relevant, and achievable. Food pattern modeling describes the types and amounts of foods to eat to provide a nutritionally adequate diet and allows for the Committee to model multiple types of science-informed diets for all ages. The Committee will use these approaches to provide advice to HHS and USDA based on the preponderance of evidence on that topic. The Departments will consider that advice in the development of the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

  • A: The public comment period for the proposed scientific questions was open from April 15 - May 16, 2022.  To view public comments, go to our page on Regulations.gov and click on “Browse Posted Comments.” If you have problems accessing the link, you can also search Regulations.gov with OASH-2022-0005, the Docket number for this Federal Register Notice.

2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

  • A: HHS and USDA requested nominations from the public for the 2025 Committee June 15 through July 15, 2022. HHS and USDA aim to appoint the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee early in 2023. The Committee will be established to conduct an independent, science-based review of specific topics and supporting scientific questions related to nutrition and health from birth to older adulthood. All Committee meetings will be open to the public virtually. Additionally, the public will be encouraged to submit public comments throughout the course of its operation. The Committee will develop a scientific report that will be submitted to the Secretaries of HHS and USDA. Upon delivery of its report to the Secretaries or when its 2-year charter expires (whichever comes first), the activities of the Committee will end.

  • A: The role of the Committee is to review the current body of nutrition science and develop a scientific report with advice and recommendations that is provided to HHS and USDA to help inform the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2025-2030. Specifically, the Committee will examine the scientific evidence on nutrition and health using each of the following approaches: Nutrition Evidence Systematic Review (NESR) systematic reviews, food pattern modeling, and data analysis. Conclusion statements from the scientific questions, answered using the three approaches, will be used to develop overarching advice. Committee members will be expected to collaborate during public and subcommittee meetings, participate in the development of evidence review protocols, review and synthesize evidence, present scientific findings, consider public comments, and develop a scientific report that includes independent, science-based advice and recommendations for HHS and USDA. Select members may also have a leadership role, such as chair or vice chair of the Committee, or as a chair for a select subcommittee.

  • A: Members of the Advisory Committee will serve without pay. Travel for in-person meetings is expected over the two-year term and will be reimbursed. This includes travel, hotel, and per diem expenses based on U.S. General Services Administration approved per diem rates.

Current Edition Questions

General Information for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 

  • A: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 is the first edition that provides guidance for healthy dietary patterns by life stage, from birth through older adulthood, and for the first time, there are chapters devoted to each life stage, including chapters on infants and toddlers and women who are pregnant or lactating. 
    Check out our Top 10 Things to Know About the Dietary Guidelines resource.

  • A: This edition of the Dietary Guidelines emphasizes the importance of choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages in place of less healthy choices at every life stage, and that it is never too early or too late to improve food and beverage choices to build a healthy dietary pattern. Its call to action is “Make Every Bite Count with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” The four overarching guidelines to help make that happen are: 

    1. Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage. 
    2. Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations. 
    3. Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages and stay within calorie limits. 
    4. Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages. 

    For most individuals, no matter their age or health status, achieving a healthy dietary pattern will require changes in food and beverage choices. The good news is that a healthy dietary pattern is not a rigid prescription. Rather, the Dietary Guidelines provides a customizable framework of core elements within which individuals can make tailored and affordable, nutrient-dense choices that meet their personal preferences and cultural traditions.

  • A: USDA and HHS provided multiple opportunities for public participation before, throughout, and after the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s review of the science, and the Departments value this engagement. See our infographic Public Engagement Strengthens the Process to learn more about the opportunities for public engagement in the process to develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 

  • A: USDA and HHS provided multiple opportunities for public participation before, throughout, and after the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s review of the science, and the Departments value everyone’s engagement. All public comments submitted throughout the development process are available through Regulations.gov.

    • View written comments provided to USDA and HHS on the process to identify the topics and supporting scientific questions to be examined by the Committee.
    • View written comments submitted to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
    • View written comments submitted to USDA and HHS on the Advisory Committee’s Scientific Report.
  • A: Each edition of the Dietary Guidelines builds on the preceding edition, with the scientific justification for revisions informed by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s Scientific Report, consultation with subject matter experts within Federal agencies, and consideration of comments from these agencies and the public. As with previous editions, development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 involved a step-by-step process of writing, review, and revision conducted by a writing team of Federal staff from USDA and HHS. The writing team included Federal nutrition scientists with expertise in the Dietary Guidelines and related research and programs as well as specialists with expertise in communicating nutrition information. Key tenets of writing the Dietary Guidelines are that it must:

    • Represent the totality of the evidence examined
    • Address the needs of Federal programs
    • Reduce unintended consequences 
    • Follow best practices for developing guidelines
    • Use plain language

    Any revisions to previous editions of the Dietary Guidelines must have sufficient scientific justification, and by law, must be based on the preponderance of scientific and medical knowledge current at the time and not on individual studies, emerging science, or opinion. Learn more about how USDA and HHS developed the Dietary Guidelines by visiting our page on this topic. 

  • A: The Scientific Report from the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is a technical document and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a guidance document intended to inform Federal policies and programs. Thus, due to these differences in purpose and audience, there are differences in the level of detail and style of text between these two documents. In both, topics are addressed in multiple places and individual sentences may not reflect the full breadth of information available on a topic.

    Despite differences in wording, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes nearly all of the science-based recommendations of the scientific report, including new advice for infants and toddlers. To support transparency, the Departments documented how the Advisory Committee’s scientific report was used to develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, including the decision where part, but not all, of the Committee’s advice for added sugars and alcohol was carried forward. You can read more about how the Dietary Guidelines are developed by visiting our page on the topic. 
     

  • A: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 is currently available to download for free on DietaryGuidelines.gov. A hard copy version is also available for purchase through the U.S. Government Bookstore.

  • A: Suggested citation: U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov

  • A: Information related to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s work can be found under “Current Dietary Guidelines” in the "Process to Develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines" section. This section links to the Committee’s Scientific Report and Committee Meetings. It also includes the public comments provided to USDA and HHS on the Committee’s Scientific Report. Additional supplementary information for data analysis and food pattern modeling are also available on DietaryGuidelines.gov. The completed NESR Systematic Reviews conducted by the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee can be found on the NESR website.

Select Topics for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 

  • A: The Dietary Guidelines provides science-based recommendations on what Americans should eat and drink to promote health and prevent chronic disease – including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Of the 60 percent of adults in the United States who currently are living with one or more diet-related chronic condition, the majority are people with a condition that is included in the evidence base of the Dietary Guidelines. For people living with hypertension, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, overweight and obesity, the evidence shows they would benefit from following the Dietary Guidelines recommendations to prevent progression to disease, such as cardiovascular disease.

    Those living with a disease, such as the 11 percent of Americans with diabetes, require clinical treatment. We emphasize that these are diseases that need one-on-one oversight and care by a medical specialist and team focused on the specific disease. 

    The Dietary Guidelines is not intended to be clinical guidelines for treating diet-related chronic diseases. However, Dietary Guidelines has served as a reference for Federal, medical, voluntary, and patient care organizations as they develop clinical nutrition guidance tailored for people living with a specific medical condition. Health professionals can adapt the Dietary Guidelines to meet the specific needs of their patients with chronic diseases, as part of a multi-faceted treatment plan. In this way, the Dietary Guidelines serve as a foundational piece of America’s larger nutrition guidance landscape.

    To learn more, check out our infographic The Dietary Guidelines for Americans Can Help You Eat Healthy To Be Healthy.

  • A: The Dietary Guidelines provides a framework for a healthy dietary pattern (featuring nutrient-dense foods and beverages within recommended calorie limits) that is intended to be customized to individual needs and preferences. This concept is emphasized in the second of the four overarching guidelines in the 2020-2025 edition – which describes how individuals can customize a healthy dietary pattern to enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.  

    A healthy dietary pattern can benefit all individuals regardless of age, race or ethnicity, or current health status. The current edition (2020-2025) of the Dietary Guidelines provides food-based recommendations across the entire lifespan, providing guidance at varying calorie levels that can fit an individual’s age, sex, height, weight, and activity level. And people can “make it their own” by selecting healthy foods, beverages, meals, and snacks specific to their needs and preferences.

    In every setting, across all cultures, and at any age or budget, there are foods and beverages that can fit within the Dietary Guidelines framework.

  • A: Decades of research shows that consuming a healthy dietary pattern that aligns with the Dietary Guidelines is associated with a wide range of health benefits, across all life stages. Unfortunately, most people in the U.S. are not eating according to the Dietary Guidelines. The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) measures how well eating patterns align with the Dietary Guidelines. The average HEI score is 59 out of a possible 100 points. Professional Resources available on dietaryguidelines.gov and USDA’s MyPlate can help improve implementation of the Dietary Guidelines

  • A: The science supporting the Dietary Guidelines consistently identifies low-fat and fat-free dairy as a component of a healthy dietary pattern. In addition, the dairy food group provides nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, and protein that help meet nutrient needs required across age and sex groups.  

    For individuals who are lactose-intolerant or who choose dairy alternatives, the dairy food group includes low-lactose or lactose-free dairy products, as well as fortified soy beverages and yogurt. 

    There are other calcium-fortified plant-based “milks” on the market that can help an individual meet their calcium recommendations; however these products are not part of the dairy food group because, as a category, their overall nutritional content is not similar to dairy milk.  

  • A: The Dietary Guidelines does not encourage a low-fat diet but rather it provides guidance to limit a type of fat called saturated fat to 10% of daily calories. The 2020-2025 edition encourages swapping saturated fat for healthier unsaturated fats: 

    • For those 2 years and older, intake of saturated fat should be limited to less than 10 percent of calories per day by replacing them with unsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated fats.
    • The recommendation to limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of calories per day does not apply to those younger than age 2, and the inclusion of higher fats versions of dairy is a notable difference in the pattern for toddlers ages 12 through 23 months compared to patterns for ages 2 and older. 

    (Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025) 

    Decades of research shows that saturated fat is linked to increased cardiovascular disease, and this relationship was documented in the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s latest review of the body of evidence.  

    The Dietary Guidelines carry forward the Dietary Reference Intakes established by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine for different age and sex groups and recommends between 20-35% of daily calories come from total fat.

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