Episode 2: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025

Inside the Incredible Egg is a podcast produced by the American Egg Board with the purpose of keeping our producers up to date with what’s happening at the American Egg Board and in the egg industry.

In this episode, Dr. Mickey Rubin, the executive director of the Egg Nutrition Center at the American Egg Board, breaks down the role of eggs in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.  

Click below to listen to the podcast, and scroll down to read the transcription of the episode.

Inside the Incredible Egg
Inside the Incredible Egg
Episode 2: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025

SAMANTHA BOAS: Welcome to Inside the Incredible Egg. Inside the Incredible Egg is a podcast produced by the American Egg Board with the purpose of keeping our producers up to date with what’s happening at the board and in the egg industry. I’m Samantha, this summer’s industry affairs and engagement intern. Today’s episode will cover the role of eggs in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020-2025. To talk about the Guidelines, I have with me Dr. Mickey Rubin, the executive director of the Egg Nutrition Center at the American Egg Board.

BOAS: What should our audience know about our efforts related to producing the Dietary Guidelines?

MICKEY RUBIN: The Dietary Guidelines are the federal nutrition policy for the U.S., and they are published by the government. It’s a team effort by the US Department of Agriculture and Departments of Health and Human Services. The process is very science based. The USDA or the HHS appoints a committee of scientific experts, mostly nutrition researchers and researchers in other health areas, who review all of the relevant science over the course of a couple of years or so. It’s a very in-depth process. And they come up with recommendations to the government on what they think should be in the guidelines. And then the government publishes the Dietary Guidelines policy shortly thereafter.

The guidelines are important because it basically sets a standard for any food and nutrition program that is overseen by the government. So, we’re talking school nutrition programs, we’re talking programs for seniors, we’re talking any program that involves nutrition at all follows the guidelines. The best examples are school nutrition, WIC and SNAP programs, and things like that all follow the Dietary Guidelines’ recommendations.

The American Egg Board Egg Nutrition Center participate in the process like any other citizen in the United States can participate in the process. It’s a public process, which means that there are opportunities throughout the two or three years that the guidelines are in development. There are opportunities to participate, either in the form of written comments submitted to the committee and to the agencies in charge of the process. Also, there are times when there’s opportunity for oral comments, so traveling to the organization and appearing in front of the committee and providing commentary that way.

We also monitor the discussions that are going on. It’s a public process, all the meetings of the Advisory Committee are public, and you can listen live online or in person. From that, we determine what science are they looking at, what science is relevant to eggs, and make sure that whatever science relevant to eggs in the areas they’re talking about is submitted to them and they are made aware of it. So, we are really tasked with monitoring discussion, understanding the high priority areas of the committee and making sure that all the relevant science related to eggs gets reviewed as part of that process.

BOAS: Given that background of how the Dietary Guidelines work, and how AEB got involved with them, what specific insights do the guidelines give regarding egg consumption?

RUBIN: I think they’ve certainly evolved over the years. So, you know, we have every five years there’s a new guideline that comes out, every five years there’s a new Advisory Committee report that comes out. And they’re really two separate documents and kind of serve two different purposes. And each time there’s different insights that we can glean from them. One of the things that I really focus on, when that Advisory Committee report comes out, they usually detail several areas that are in need of future research, that are research gaps. And so we take a look at that very closely because if those topics at all are related to eggs, then that could feed right into the Egg Nutrition Center nutrition research program. So that’s really important.

We look at how eggs are recommended for various age groups. This year, one of the nutrients that was pointed out by the Dietary Guidelines’ Advisory Committee was choline, and they basically said that nobody is getting enough choline. Nobody’s meeting recommendations. They identify choline as a nutrient that poses special challenges because hardly any age group is meeting those recommendations. But, they pointed out specifically the importance of choline during pregnancy because of the importance of choline in brain development for infants and toddlers. So, we look pretty closely at things like that. And we look to see they established the fact that choline is important during that life stage. And then we also look to see what other research is needed on that topic that might actually help us understand that area better. And that might refine the recommendations in the future on those topics.

BOAS: Were there any other topics or insights from the guidelines that specifically relate to eggs?

RUBIN: The recommendations for children from birth to two years of age, they’d never had this before. And so we were really curious about what those were going to look like. Because it’s a different area, we’re obviously talking about infants and toddlers, most of whom, up until the age of six months or so, their only diet consists of breastfeeding and formula feeding. So, what are the recommendations going to look like for when these kiddos start having real solid foods? The really fascinating insight that we learned there is that there are really fundamental first foods for this age group, and for a couple of reasons.

One was eggs, the other was seafood, and the other were nuts. And so the reason why those three were called out, one in particular that apply to all three and you might recognize, all three as potential allergens. What the research on food allergy has shown just in the last five to 10 years is that we don’t want to restrict potential allergens from children anymore, we want to introduce those allergens early. Because when we introduce those allergens early, that actually reduces the risk of developing an allergy to those foods later on. So that was pointed out as being important.

And then, in addition to that, those three foods also, they’re recognizable as also pretty healthy foods. They’re very nutrient dense, eggs are nutrient dense. So those three foods, not only important for early introduction for reducing allergy risk, but also for their nutrient density, and for the nutrients that they contain that are quite critical for brain development, as well. So, I think that to me, is probably the biggest learning from the guidelines that is related to eggs.

BOAS: Are there any new learnings that apply beyond the birth to age two age group?

RUBIN: Well, I mentioned already about choline across the lifespan. We saw some other interesting things come from the Advisory Committee. There’s not enough choline being consumed in adolescence as well. Protein is another one that I thought was really interesting. You hear a lot about protein and oh, Americans, we eat too much protein anyway, we don’t need any more protein, but it really is age specific. Adolescent girls, teenage girls are actually not meeting the recommendation. Boys are at it or above it, but we really need to look at protein from an age group-specific lens and making sure that the recommendations are catered specific to those who need them.

One other thing that I think is important to note, and this goes back to the previous guidelines in 2015. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines removed dietary cholesterol from their list of nutrients of concern. I think what’s important here in the newest guidelines, the 2020 guidelines, is that this guideline carries forward that same recommendation that dietary cholesterol is not a nutrient of public health concern, there is no limit to dietary cholesterol intake in the guidelines, similar to what was recommended in 2015.

BOAS: So based on the guidelines and what they say about eggs, how are you and the rest of the American Egg Board going to utilize that information moving forward?

RUBIN: The guidelines are sort of fundamental to almost everything we do from a health and nutrition perspective. The guidelines really serve as a great foundation for all of our messaging around nutrition and eggs in the context of healthy dietary patterns. So since eggs exist in all three healthy dietary patterns, as defined by the Dietary Guidelines, that allows us to scribe that in our messaging to health professionals who are interested in understanding the role of eggs in a healthy diet. So, it really serves as a basis for almost everything we do in our nutrition communications work.

BOAS: Based on everything we’ve talked about, is there anything else you would like to add?

RUBIN: I would just want to reinforce that the Dietary Guidelines are a critically important component of the nutrition landscape here in the U.S. As I said, they serve as the basis for all nutrition policy, and that gets translated into recommendations by health professionals. But they also serve as the basis for our work, our nutrition communications, our messaging to health professionals around the role of eggs in healthy dietary patterns. But also, I think everybody should have confidence in them that they are science-based, that the science is evaluated critically by experts who make these recommendations to the agencies that produce the guidelines. And it represents the best nutrition science that we have. And they continue to evolve as we learn more from nutrition science. The guidelines will evolve with the science.

BOAS: I’d like to give a special thanks to Dr. Rubin for taking the time to chat with me about the Dietary Guidelines. And thanks for listening to Inside the Incredible Egg.