‘Limited, Arbitrary, and Unsystematic:’ Flawed Federal Dietary Report Targets Alcohol
Critics are lining up to blast a report, issued by a federal committee earlier this summer, that urges the government to make steep cuts to the definition of moderate alcohol consumption. These critics are concerned because the group—the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), a rotating crop of experts that meets every five years—is the government’s primary vehicle for recommending updates to the nation’s dietary policies.
The DGAC, which was established in 1990, “provide[s] the basis for federal food and nutrition policy and education initiatives.” Those policies include everything from recommending how many servings of vegetables people should consume in a day to determining what foods to serve to troops, schoolchildren, and prisoners. Now that the DGAC has issued its final report, key federal agencies will review and consider its recommendations, along with public comments, before adopting formal guidelines. Alcohol is one area where the DGAC recommendations are stirring the most controversy.
The report argues in favor of “reducing consumption among those who drink… in ways that increase the risk of harms.” That sounds eminently reasonable, until you learn the DGAC decided, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that drinking “in ways that increase the risk of harms” means enjoying a second Bud Light.
Indeed, the report seeks to halve the DGAC’s longstanding definition of moderate drinking for men—no more than two drinks per day—to no more than one drink per day. (The recommendation for women, set for years at no more than one drink per day, remains unchanged.)
The proposed change to the alcohol-consumption recommendation is angering everyone from bourbon aficionados to the beer lobbies and wine connoisseurs, who—and this is probably an understatement—are “not happy with the report.” But top medical doctors and public health experts, along with lawmakers, are also raising objections.
Last month, five Harvard Medical School faculty doctors—including three who served on one or more prior iterations of the DGAC—submitted comments that are highly critical of the 2020 DGAC report. They argue the push to slash the maximum daily alcohol consumption for men is a “limited, arbitrary, and unsystematic treatment of alcohol consumption” that is based
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