Key Issues

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) provides advice on what Americans should eat and drink to meet nutrient needs, promote health and prevent disease. Published jointly every five years by USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), each iteration aims to reflect the current body of nutrition science. The DGA has significant impacts on nutrition in the United States because it forms the basis of federal nutrition policy and programs; it also helps guide health promotion and disease prevention initiatives at the federal, state and local levels.

Thanks to American dairy farmers and their cooperatives, nutrient-rich dairy foods are abundant, affordable and offer something for everyone’s wellness and taste needs throughout their lives. Milk packs in 13 essential nutrients in every serving, including protein, zinc, selenium, and vitamins A and D, which contribute to healthy immune function. Dairy is part of dietary patterns associated with beneficial health outcomes and reduced risk of chronic diseases across all ages, and its consumption is key to closing gaps in nutrients across the population.

Our Position

NMPF strongly supports the DGA’s affirmation that dairy foods are important to good nutrition and health and that Americans need to consume more dairy. It endorses the advisory committee’s conclusion that dairy should remain a separate food group, with daily intake recommended in all three healthy dietary patterns.

NMPF urges USDA and HHS to continue its review of scientific literature on dairy foods at all fat levels and draw their own conclusions. NMPF also recommends that the DGA policy document contain a clear statement that modest amounts of added sugars can improve palatability and consumption of nutrient-dense foods, such as milk and yogurt.

Key Points

  • Dairy foods provide about 52% of the calcium, 51% of the vitamin D and 17% of the protein consumed by Americans. Research shows that healthy eating styles, which include low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, are linked to a reduced risk of some of the most prevalent chronic diseases in the U.S.—type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults—as well as improved bone health.
  • Dairy foods are included in all three of the healthy eating patterns linked to reduced risk of chronic diseases featured in the current DGA report. Dairy foods also are included in recommendations for pre-natal and maternal health; yogurt and cheese are recommended as complementary foods to human milk or iron-fortified formula starting at age 6 months, with whole milk, plain reduced-fat yogurt and reduced-fat cheese at age-appropriate servings from 12 to 23 months.
  • Americans need more dairy in their diets, according to HHS and USDA. 88 percent of them fall short of the panel’s recommendations. That includes 79 percent of 9- to 13-year-olds, who rely heavily on the school-lunch program to meet nutritional needs.
  • The DGA committee recognizes milk as a nutrient-rich beverage that contributes positively to under-consumed nutrients, including potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins A and D, and others.
  • The current body of evidence indicates dairy foods, regardless of fat content, contribute beneficial nutrients to the diet and are not associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • Despite mounting evidence of the neutral to beneficial health impact of milkfat, the current report did not fully address that issue. This is disappointing, but the report did take a step in the right direction by laying the necessary groundwork for dairy’s health benefits to be recognized more fully in the next dietary guidelines.

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