Will the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Crack Down on Moderate Drinking?

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The Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services are currently finalizing the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as they do every five years. These guidelines are critically important. They represent the bedrock of all nutrition policymaking and regulatory orders in the years that follow. This year, however, there is a reason for concern. The report recommendations provided by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), the panel of professors created by the departments to help direct their decision-making, have put political machinations and myopic ideology over sound science. 

Specifically, the DGAC decided to break with over 20 years of precedent and recommend that the government tell adult males to drink less alcohol. They want the acceptable "moderate" level of drinking for men to drop from two glasses a day to one. This is odd because the current level has been in place since 1990, and when the committee last met in 2015, it deemed two drinks as the established scientific consensus.

The science has not changed in the last five years, so what is different? 

According to Dr. Eric Rimm, a former committee member and current director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology program at Harvard's School of Public Health, the change is a result of the 2020 committee ignoring all research completed before 2010 and dismissing most of the accepted studies around chronic illness and alcohol usage.

Why do this? 

The committee had access to over 60 studies. But when explaining their break from precedent, it could only produce one that showed any negative correlation with men having two drinks versus one. 

Many of the other studies they looked at concerned binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks in one sitting. It is obvious, the inclusion of these studies skewed the analysis. Even the subcommittee that the DGAC appointed to examine alcohol consumption data admitted that “it examined studies not approved for this process.”

Rather than provide American people with the facts and allow them to formulate our own conclusions (as DGAC is supposed to do), a panel of 20 unelected "experts" wants to set the federal government on a path where all alcohol consumption is deemed unhealthy and unadvisable. 

This DGAC report represents the theoretical equivalent of a Department of Transportation task force recommending a speed limit of 15 miles per hour on the highways without having more than a preponderance of scientific evidence to suggest that should be the government standard. It makes no sense – from a science or health perspective. 

This suggested change comes despite the DGAC conceding, "In the absence of binge drinking, low volume alcohol consumption (sometimes referred to as "moderate" alcohol consumption) has low risk for most adults." In other words, they cannot change the fact that moderate consumption is fine from a health standpoint, so they have opted to change the definition of “moderate” to near zero. 

This DGAC report needs to be called out for what it is — fake science. Fake science being leveraged to advance a ‘Nanny State’ approach to public health policy.

When crafting the new dietary guidelines, Sonny Perdue’s Department of Agriculture and Alex Azar’s Department of Health and Human Services need to tread carefully. Regardless of what the DGAC has advised, administration officials need to ensure that they base the Dietary Guideline recommendations in science, not politics or ideology.

Americans need to have confidence that policy is established based on science and facts, not whim or the politics of the moment. A regulatory state run amok does not serve the best interests of the American public.

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