January 26, 2015
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
What Are the Dietary Guidelines
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) are federally
developed food-based recommendations for Americans
aged two and older, designed to promote health and prevent
disease—a guidance on what and how much to eat.
The DGA form the basis of federal nutrition policy,
education, outreach, and food assistance programs. They
provide the scientific basis for government
recommendations and are used in the development of
educational materials, messages, tools, and programs to
communicate healthy eating and physical activity
information to the public.
There were seven DGAC meetings during the development
of the 2015 guidelines, all of which were open to the public
via webcast technology. Federal agencies and the public
may submit comments electronically throughout the
deliberation process (comment period closed December 30,
Figure 1. The 2015 DGA Process: From Start to
All Federal dietary guidance for the public must be
consistent with the Dietary Guidelines.
The DGA are statutorily mandated under the 1990 National
Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act (P.L. 101445, Title III, Section 301 [7 U.S.C. 5341]).
They are reviewed, updated, and published every five years
in a joint effort between the Departments of Health and
Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA). The 2010
Dietary Guidelines for Americans is the most recent version
of the policy document, and a new edition is to be published
in the fall of 2015.
Source: Figure created by CRS based on information from USDA
Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
The DGAC Report
The Dietary Guidelines
In the first stage of DGA development, a Dietary
Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) is chartered
following Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA)
guidelines. In the fall of 2012, an announcement was
published in the Federal Register seeking public
nominations for the establishment of the DGAC for the
2015 guidelines (see Figure 1, Phase 1).
The committee is composed of nationally recognized
experts in the fields of human nutrition and chronic disease
prevention. DGAC members are non-federal employees
who are classified as special government employees (SGEs)
for the duration of their appointment. Following committee
selection, a notice listing appointed members is published
in the Federal Register.
During the development of the Dietary Guidelines, the
DGAC holds a series of public meetings to review and
discuss scientific evidence to support recommendations.
Meeting information is announced in the Federal Register
at least 15 days prior to the meeting.
The DGAC uses systematic reviews, data analyses, and/or
food pattern modeling analyses, as well as scientific
evidence-based reports, input from guest speakers, and
public comments to inform revision of existing
recommendations or suggest new guidance. The DGAC
also relies on the Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL), which
was established by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy
and Promotion (CNPP) to objectively review, evaluate, and
synthesize research to answer nutrition and health
When developing recommendations, the committee
considers the existing Dietary Guidelines and examines
how those recommendations compare to food consumption
data. Based on those considerations, the DGAC may make
certain recommendations (e.g., “Increase fruit and
vegetable intake” or “Reduce intake of calories from solid
fats and added sugars”).
The DGAC then presents its recommendations in a
scientific report to the Secretaries of HHS and USDA for
use in updating the official Dietary Guidelines for
Americans (see Figure 1, Phase 2). The DGAC Report is
published in the Federal Register and made available to the
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
public for comment. The Secretaries consider the DGAC’s
scientific recommendations, as well as comments from
federal agencies and the public, in the development of the
final policy document.
Timeline: 2015 Dietary Guidelines for
DGA Implementation—Impact on
Fall 2012/Winter 2013
Agencies within HHS and USDA rely on DGA policy
recommendations to make updates and changes to various
HHS and USDA solicited nominations for the DGAC
DGAC were appointed
Programs Within HHS
Request for public comments initiated
Work groups established to identify topic areas
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
DGAC held its first public meeting on June 13-14,
implements programs that provide resources based on
Fall 2013/Winter 2014
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers
aspects of the DGA in food and nutrition labeling
Subcommittees established to begin reviews of current
DGAC held its second public meeting on January 1314, 2014
DGAC held its third public meeting on March 14, 2014
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its agencies
produce several consumer initiatives to promote
principles of the DGA.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
(ODPHP/HHS) implements Healthy People 2020,
whose objectives on nutrition and weight status provide
a mechanism to measure the nation’s progress toward
implementing DGA recommendations.
Other HHS agencies, including the Administration on
Community Living (ACL), the Health Resources and
Service Administration (HRSA), the Indian Health
Service (IHS), and the Office on Women’s Health
(OWH), also have nutrition and health education
programs based on the DGA.
Programs Within USDA
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) nutrition
assistance programs use the DGA to adjust food benefits
for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition
Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
DGAC reviews current scientific evidence
DGAC held its fourth public meeting on July 17-18,
Fall 2014/Winter 2015
DGAC held its fifth public meeting on September 1617, 2014
DGAC held its sixth public meeting on November 7,
DGAC held its seventh public meeting on December
DGAC to issue report to the Secretaries of HHS and
DGAC report to be published and made available to
public for comment
HHS and USDA to consider DGAC’s scientific
recommendations, as well as public and agency
implements the DGA through nutrition labeling and
food safety education programs.
The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP)
Departments to prepare for the Dietary Guidelines for
Americans policy document
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
uses the DGA as the nutrition basis for the USDA Food
Plans used for SNAP allotments, food allowances for
the military, and setting child support and foster care
HHS and USDA to jointly publish and release the 8th
edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Other USDA agencies, including the Agricultural
Marketing Service (AMS), the Agricultural Research
Service (ARS), Economic Research Service (ERS), and
the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA),
use the DGA to guide decisions on food and/or food
Agata Dabrowska, Analyst in Health Policy
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan shared staff to
congressional committees and Members of Congress. It operates solely at the behest of and under the direction of Congress.
Information in a CRS Report should not be relied upon for purposes other than public understanding of information that has
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