The Nutrition Coalition, which has been critical of the process used to produce the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is calling for a delay in the release of the draft report, saying “one or more members” of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee have contacted the coalition to express concern about the quality of the science used.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the Nutrition Coalition said the member(s) have “expressed concern that time pressures have led to a reduction in the science that is being reviewed, with, in some cases, important science being excluded.”
The DGAC has delayed the issuance of its draft report twice. It is now set to be released during a June 17 webcast and then sent to Azar and Perdue. A new public comment period on the report will start around July 15 and the final report is due to be released by the end of the year.
The Nutrition Coalition was founded in 2015 by former New York Times reporter Nina Teicholz, author of “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.”
“The American people deserve trustworthy nutrition policy based on a comprehensive review of the most rigorous science, especially during this public health crisis when diet-related chronic diseases are among the leading risk factors for worsened outcomes from Covid-19,” Teicholz, executive director of the coalition, said in a press release.
She said the allegations by the member(s) “range from deleting scientific reviews without public notice to failing to adopt reforms mandated by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). The NASEM identified numerous ways that the DGA needs to be reformed in order to ensure a scientifically rigorous process and, in their words, for this policy to be ‘trustworthy.”
In the letter, which was copied to the USDS and HHS inspectors general as well as key members of Congress, Teicholz noted that NASEM issued two reports in 2017 including “a series of clear recommendations intended to strengthen the scientific integrity of the DGA process, including measures to enhance transparency, manage biases and conflicts of interest, and most importantly, to ensure that the DGA is based upon rigorous, up-to-date scientific data.”
“Unfortunately, it appears that regarding many of the issues needing reform, the USDA and HHS rejected the NASEM recommendations and therefore appear on track to produce yet another DGA that lacks scientific rigor and will fall far short of being the trustworthy, reliable guidance that Americans need,” Teicholz wrote.
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The committee’s work has been hindered by time constraints, Teicholz said. “The member(s) of the DGAC who contacted us expressed concern that the committee could not finish its work properly in the time allotted,” the letter to Azar and Perdue says.
Teicholz cited comments by members of the committee at their March meeting demonstrating that “research protocols are being modified mid-review. This is problematic, because it could — and indeed has — led to the exclusion of evidence and a failure to consider the entirety of the evidence.”
For example, the Dietary Patterns Subcommittee, “by imposing new exclusion criteria, effectively excluded at least 52 clinical trials on low-carbohydrate diets” and has decided to exclude all studies on weight loss, she said.
“There is also a concern by the DGAC member(s) who contacted us that fear of retaliation is creating an environment where some committee members are left to simply ‘suffer in silence,’ ” Teicholz said in the letter.
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