This morning, I woke up bright and early to allow for an extra long metro ride to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. I met two other UCS researchers outside the station. We walked together to the public hearing on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s scientific report with one consistent message: that we support the committee’s recommendations. Below is a copy of my testimony.
“Good morning. My name is Lindsey Haynes-Maslow. I’m a food systems and health analyst here with my colleagues Drs. Deborah Bailin and Doug Boucher from the Union of Concerned Scientists. I have a Ph.D. in Health Policy and Management and a Masters in Healthcare Administration from the University of North Carolina. I would like to first thank you for this opportunity to comment on the committee’s report.
The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create practical solutions for a healthy environment.
UCS applauds the committee’s recognition of the role that socio-ecological systems play on human health and well-being. In particular, we support the committee’s careful consideration of food sustainability. In the face of the obesity epidemic and climate change, we must consider the long-term consequences of our food system, from production to consumption. The committee has done critically important work to bring together various aspects of evidence-based dietary recommendations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults and 30 percent of children are overweight or obese. Despite decades of official dietary advice, most Americans still lack a healthy diet. UCS is pleased to see the committee’s strong recommendations for increased consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and reduced consumption of meat, dairy, and added sugars. Consuming more fruits and vegetables, in particular, can help reduce the risk of obesity-related chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. A 2013 report from my organization showed that if Americans ate the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, we could save 127,000 lives and $17 billion dollars per year in cardiovascular-related healthcare costs.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans should better reflect the DGAC’s recommendations. And they should be written in a way that is clearly understood by Americans. Recognizing that many Americans face barriers to a healthy diet, including cultural and social norms, geographic proximity, transportation, convenience, cost, and nutrition knowledge, it is important to take a systems-based approach to the dietary guidelines. It is time that national policies be grounded in science and reflect the influence of the food system on health. We need a system that supports access to healthy food and sustainable diets. Not until we recognize that food is health will we be able to improve the public’s health.
In closing, the Union of Concerned Scientists applauds the Committee’s recognition of the role that various systems play on health, and we urge the USDA and HHS to incorporate these evidence-based recommendations in the final Dietary Guidelines for Americans.