The American Beverage Association has responded to new Dietary Guidelines that limit sugar by spinning them into a recommendation for soft drinks. Yet this alleged suggestion is not present in the guidelines. Perhaps Big Soda’s lobbyists are using their own “alternative” guidelines.
Last week, the association’s CEO, Susan Neely, discussed the national Dietary Guidelines with Beverage Industry. She claimed,
“USDA guidelines say that when water just won’t do, you should have a treat, have a soft drink in moderation.”
No. Nowhere do the Dietary Guidelines say “you should have … a soft drink.” Instead, they recommend shifting from sugary beverages to “no-sugar-added beverages,” as you can see below.
It’s possible that Neely was obliquely referring to ChooseMyPlate.gov. This site states, “When water just won’t do — enjoy the beverage of your choice, but just cut back.” On the other hand, that site does not present the official USDA Dietary Guidelines themselves, but rather presents simple suggestions it claims are “representative” of them. And Neely’s selective paraphrase conveniently skips over the lead recommendation to “drink water instead of sugary drinks.”
The ABA may issue its own alternative dietary guidelines. The American College of Sports Medicine and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics might be glad to help out. But the ABA must not portray its alternative guidelines as the official “USDA Guidelines.”
The 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines are pretty clear on sugar in general, warning Americans to “limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of calories.” This precise 10-percent limit was a first for the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and a departure from previous editions that took more ambiguous positions on sugar. For example, the 1985 Guidelines cautioned generally against “too much sugar,” but strangely claimed “too much sugar does not cause diabetes,” as Gary Taubes pointed out.
Each Dietary Guidelines edition has winners and losers. A major loser in the 2015 edition is the American Beverage Association. And the ABA was not sparing in its criticism of the new focus on added sugars, complaining that “‘added’ or ‘free’ sugars have become the vilified nutrient of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).” They even alleged that the committee failed to “consider the body of science” in its soda stance. That’s rich coming from the money behind the Global Energy Balance Network and Exercise is Medicine.
The ABA’s protests seem to have worked. When the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services translated the advisory committee’s report into the official dietary guidelines, some of the more strident anti-soda recommendations were watered down and/or absent.