The panel that determines what Americans should include in their diets gave seafood some historic firsts. The report for 2020 through 2025 was released this month by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
“And I was really amazed at how strong seafood came out. I think this is by far the strongest one for seafood in all of the Dietary Guidelines history, and at virtually every point in the life cycle from babies to pregnant and lactating moms to adults and cardiovascular disease.”
Dr. Tom Brenna is professor of pediatrics, chemistry, and nutrition at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas and at Cornell University.
For the first time, he says the advisors considered nutritional requirements for children under two.
“And the general idea is that kids should be breastfed, that’s the recommendation to six months of age, but starting at six months when you’re introducing finger foods, solid foods, the recommendation is for seafood right from the beginning.”
Another first, Brenna says, the dietary panel did a deep dive into reams of evidence of seafood’s nutritional benefits.
“It is not just omega 3s, it’s these great minerals that are in some cases rare in other foods. The zinc and iron and selenium and iodine, particularly is another one. And these can be really limiting nutrients, they’re just not as high as they need to be, in diets that are missing seafood.”
Brenna adds that omega 3s are to a developing retina and brain as calcium is to bones.
The new diet guidelines now need a stamp of approval by the US Dept. of Agriculture before they become policy. If passed as written, seafood would be required eating at women and infant feeding programs and school lunches.
“Because that would be federal policy. And so you can’t just sort of say, well, we’re just going to ignore that. And this is part of the political process why we want to get it into dietary guidelines.”
The public has two weeks to comment on the new diet guidelines and competing protein producers also will be pushing their lines. Brenna urges seafood advocates to speak up.
“And if the seafood industry sits quietly I think that it’s going to let this opportunity pass, both for the industry itself, but also for the health of all Americans. Because this is the time – the data are there, the committee agrees and has said this is important. And now that has to get translated into federal policy. And so it’s really incumbent upon the industry and those of us who care. But it’s more a political process now and so the industry has to weigh in in a big way.”
Deadline to comment to USDA is August 13. (www.dietaryguidelines.gov)