Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 Published

Earlier today, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), 2020-2025 were released. EPA and DHA were mentioned only four times in 150+ pages.   

The following are the four broad dietary guidelines: 

  1. Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.
  2. Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
  3. Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits.
  4. Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.

GOED is pleased with the recognition of seafood’s benefits, specifically in the description in the third dietary guideline, but we are disappointed by the lack of a connection to EPA and DHA. While EPA and DHA are mentioned once as beneficial fatty acids found in seafood, their benefits are never mentioned, despite the conclusion from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) that “Moderate evidence indicates that total intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid from food sources, by adults is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease.” To make matters worse, acknowledgement in the DGA that EPA and DHA are fatty acids found in seafood is tied to unsubstantiated guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit seafood consumption in order to limit methylmercury exposure.

While GOED’s multiple requests for the DGAC to investigate the benefits of EPA/DHA supplementation for reducing the risk of preterm and early preterm birth went unanswered, a gratuitous mention of EPA/DHA supplementation was included under “Special Considerations” for “Women Who are Pregnant or Lactating.” Specifically, “Women following a vegetarian or vegan dietary pattern should consult with a healthcare provider to determine whether supplementation of iron, vitamin B12, and/or other nutrients such as choline, zinc, iodine, or EPA/DHA is necessary and if so, the appropriate levels to meet their unique needs.” 

GOED had made one final attempt to include an EPA/DHA supplementation recommendation for reducing the risk of preterm and early preterm birth in its 13 August 2020 written comments to the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services following the 2020 DGAC Scientific Report, which, along with comments from the public and government agencies, served as guidance for drafting the DGA.

When the next DGAC convenes to provide guidance for the drafting of the 2025-2030 DGA, GOED will once again request the Committee to investigate the benefits of EPA/DHA for reducing the risk of preterm and early preterm birth. 

After the first of the year, GOED will review the DGA in greater depth and report back to the membership if there is additional insight to share.