A Proposed Framework for Identifying Nutrients and Food Components of Public Health Relevance in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Regan L. Bailey, Jamy D. Ard, Teresa A. Davis, Tim S. Naimi, Barbara O. Schneeman, Jaime S. Stang, Kathryn G. Dewey, Sharon M. Donovan, Rachel Novotny, Linda G. Snetselaar, Janet De Jesus, Kellie O. Casavale, Tusa Rebecca Pannucci, Eve E. Stoody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Identification of nutrients of public health concern has been a hallmark of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA); however, a formal systematic process for identifying them has not been published. Objectives: We aimed to propose a framework for identifying "nutrients or food components" (NFCs) of public health relevance to inform the DGA. Methods: The proposed framework consists of 1) defining terminology; 2) establishing quantitative thresholds to identify NFCs; and 3) examining national data. The proposed framework utilizes available data from 3 key data sources or "prongs": 1) dietary intakes; 2) biological endpoints; and 3) clinical health consequences such as prevalence of health conditions, directly or indirectly through validated surrogate markers. Results: In identifying potential NFCs of public health concern, the 2020 DGA Committee developed a decision-tree framework with suggestions for combining the 3 prongs. The identified NFCs of public health concern for Americans ≥y old included fiber, calcium (≥ old), vitamin D, and potassium for low intakes and sodium, added sugars, and saturated fats (≥ old) for high intakes that were associated with adverse health consequences. Iron was identified among infants ages 6-12 mo fed human milk. For reproductive-aged and pregnant females, iron (all trimesters) and folate (first trimester) were identified for low intake, based on dietary and biomarker data (iron) or the severity of the consequence (folic acid and neural tube defects). Among pregnant women, low iodine was of potential public health concern based on biomarker data. Other NFCs that were underconsumed, overconsumed, and pose special challenges were identified across the life course. Conclusions: The proposed decision-tree framework was intended to streamline and add transparency to the work of this and future Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees to identify NFCs that need to be encouraged or discouraged in order to help reduce risk of chronic disease and promote health and energy balance in the population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1197-1204
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • dietary guidelines
  • nutrient
  • nutrition policy
  • nutrition risk
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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