Most Popular Questions About the Dietary Guidelines



Q: What are the Dietary Guidelines for Americans?

A: The Dietary Guidelines are the cornerstone of Federal nutrition policy and nutrition education activities, providing food-based recommendations to promote health, help prevent diet-related disease, and meet nutrient needs. USDA and HHS jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines every 5 years.

Q: How are the Dietary Guidelines used?

A: Relied on by Federal agencies, the Dietary Guidelines  serve as a central source of guidance that nutrition programs within the government can use to inform their food and nutrition programs and initiatives while tailoring their efforts for their specific audiences, like women and children. The Dietary Guidelines also support the development of science-based nutrition education messages and consumer materials for the general public, as well as for special audiences. Additionally, outside organizations and companies use the Dietary Guidelines in the private sector.

Q: Why are the Dietary Guidelines being updated? Why are they updated every five years?

A: The Dietary Guidelines were first released in 1980. In 1990, Congress passed the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, which mandates in Section 301 that USDA and HHS jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines every five years. The law requires that the Dietary Guidelines are based on the preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines is the current edition until the next edition is released.

Q: Will the process to develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines be different from previous processes?

A: We are still working through some of the details, but we plan to add some new steps in response to the National Academies’ recommendations, stakeholder feedback, and our desire to have a transparent, inclusive, and science-driven process. Many of the key steps to develop the Dietary Guidelines will remain the same as previous processes. We will have an advisory committee. The committee will review evidence and provide a scientific report to USDA and HHS, and USDA and HHS will then develop the Dietary Guidelines. Revisions to the Dietary Guidelines will be informed by the scientific report from the advisory committee and consideration of Federal agency input and public comments. Look for future announcements about the Dietary Guidelines on our website at

Q: Can you provide a timeline of the process to develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines?

A: We are hoping to announce a call for nominations for the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in late spring or early summer of this year.  We believe that determining the topics and questions prior to establishing the advisory committee will be helpful in getting its work under way.  Our goal continues to be to release the Dietary Guidelines by the end of 2020. 

Q: Why are USDA and HHS identifying proposed topics and scientific questions before establishing the advisory committee?

A: We heard from a variety of stakeholders during our listening sessions and received recommendations from the National Academies’ report suggesting the topics be identified as a first step in the Dietary Guidelines process.  In response to that feedback and in an effort to increase transparency and provide additional opportunities for interested parties to comment early in the process, we are taking this new step in the Dietary Guidelines process. Additionally, identifying topics and questions first will help us determine the expertise needed on the advisory committee and will ultimately streamline its work.

Q: How did you come up with proposed topics and scientific questions?

A: Federal nutritionists, including scientists and programmatic experts, from USDA and HHS participated in the development of the proposed topics and supporting questions. This process was led by the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, and included input from a variety of agencies, including the Agricultural Research Service and Food and Nutrition Service at USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health at HHS. We also received input from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Agency for International Development. This initial list was informed by the needs of Federal nutrition-related programs and initiatives.

Since nutrition is such a broad field with many potential topics and questions of interest, we used four key criteria to help us identify high-priority topics and questions. We are reviewing comments on the topics and questions in relation to these four criteria as we refine this list. The four criteria listed in the Federal Register notice are:

  • Relevance to creating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,
  • Importance to public health,
  • Potential Federal impact on food and nutrition programs, and
  • Avoiding duplication of Federal efforts.

Q: How are USDA and HHS going to review and consider the public comments on the proposed topics and scientific questions?

A:  USDA and HHS will review every comment that was submitted through We will consider each comment in relation to our four criteria: relevance, importance, potential Federal impact, and avoiding duplication.

The criteria for prioritization are:

  • Relevance: Topic is within the scope of the Dietary Guidelines. The focus of the Dietary Guidelines is food-based recommendations; changes to the Dietary Reference Intakes are not within the scope of the Dietary Guidelines. Clinical guidelines for the medical treatment and care of individuals with specific diseases and conditions are not included in the Dietary Guidelines.
  • Importance: Topics for which there are new, relevant data and that represent an area of substantial public health concern, uncertainty, and/or a knowledge gap.
  • Potential Federal impact: Probability that guidance on the topic in the Dietary Guidelines would inform Federal food and nutrition policies and programs.  
  • Avoiding Duplication: Topic is not currently addressed through existing evidence-based Federal guidance (other than the Dietary Guidelines).

Q: How do I submit public comments on the proposed topics and scientific questions?

A:  The public comment period on the proposed topics and scientific questions is now closed. (Per the Federal Register notice, the public comment period was February 28-March 30, 2018.) USDA and HHS will review and consider each comment submitted in relation to our four criteria: relevance, importance, potential Federal impact, and avoiding duplication.

Q: What is the next step after the first public comment period?

A: After refining the topics and supporting questions, USDA and HHS will post a public call for nominations for the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The areas of expertise needed will be based on the topics and supporting scientific questions identified by the Departments to be examined by the Committee, resulting in a coordinated and efficient scientific review.


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