Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

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Part D. Chapter 5: Food Sustainability and Safety - Continued

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Needs for Future Research

Dietary Patterns and Sustainability

  1. Conduct research to determine whether sustainable diets are affordable and accessible to all sectors of the population and how this can be improved, including how policy strategies could influence the supply chain (all steps from farm to plate) to affect this improvement.

    Rationale: Ensuring that sustainable diets are accessible and affordable to all sectors of the population is important to promote food security.

  2. Develop, conduct, and evaluate in-depth analyses of U.S. domestic dietary patterns and determine the degree to which sustainability practices, domestically and internationally, are important to food choice and how to increase public awareness of the impact of food choices on environmental outcomes.

    Rationale: Understanding consumer choice across demographic groups and the degree to which either health and/or sustainability is a significant decisional criterion as well as the degree to which choice theory can be used to improve choices will be important to helping drive change.

  3. Develop a robust understanding of how production practices, supply chain decisions, consumer behaviors, and waste disposal affect the environmental sustainability of various practices across the USDA food components of MyPlate.

    Rationale: Developing sustainable production and supply chain practices for all parts of MyPlate, especially meat and dairy products will be important to reduce their environmental impact.

  4. Determine the potential economic benefits and challenges to supply chain stakeholders in relationship to findings in Research Recommendation 3.

    Rationale: Experience demonstrates that many practices over the past few decades that improve the environmental footprint of, for example, production practices, also have led to improved profit (e.g., Integrated Pest Management to reduce pesticide use in many fruit and vegetables). It is important to know how changes will affect profit to help enable future policy in both the private and public spheres.

Seafood Sustainability

  1. Conduct research on methods to ensure the maintenance of nutrient profiles of high-trophic level farmed seafood and improve nutrient profiles of low-trophic farmed seafood concurrently with research to improve production efficacy.

    Rationale: The evidence supporting healthfulness of seafood consumption is based on consumption of predominantly wild caught species. Many popular low-trophic level farmed seafood have nutrient profiles that depend on feeds. Efficient production of seafood with nutrient profiles that are known to be healthful should be emphasized.

  2. Conduct research to develop methods to ensure contaminant levels in all seafood remain at levels similar to or lower than at present. Maintain monitoring of contaminant levels for capture fisheries to ensure that levels caused by pollution do not rise appreciably. This research should include developing effective rapid response approaches if the quality of seafood supply is acutely affected.

    Rationale: Current research findings support the contention that contaminant levels are generally well below those that significantly alter the healthfulness of seafood. As industry naturally improves efficiency, feeds and environmental conditions should be monitored to maintain or reduce priority contaminants and insure significant new contaminants do not enter the seafood supply.

Usual Caffeine/Coffee Intake

  1. Evaluate the effects of coffee on health outcomes in vulnerable populations, such as women who are pregnant (premature birth, low birth weight, spontaneous abortion).

    Rationale: Given the limited evidence of the effects of coffee/caffeine consumption on pregnancy outcomes, future studies need to establish safe levels of coffee/caffeine consumption during pregnancy.

  2. Examine the effects of coffee on sleep patterns, quality of life, and dependency and addiction.

    Rationale: Because coffee is a known stimulant, future research should examine the effect of coffee/caffeine on sleep quality, dependency, addiction, and overall quality of life measures.

  3. Evaluate the prospective association between coffee/caffeine consumption and cancer at different sites.

    Rationale: Large well-conducted prospective cohort studies that adequately control for smoking (status and dosage) and other potential confounders are needed to understand the association of coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated) with cancer at different sites.

  4. Examine prospectively the effects of coffee/caffeine on cognitive decline, neurodegenerative diseases, and depression.

    Rationale: Neurodegenerative diseases affect millions of people worldwide and more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Given the limited evidence of coffee/caffeine on neurodegenerative diseases, well-designed prospective studies should examine the association of coffee/caffeine consumption on cognitive decline, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.

  5. Understand the mechanisms underlying the protective effects of coffee on diabetes and CVD.

    Rationale: Evidence for a biological plausibility for coffee on risk of type 2 diabetes and CVD stems primarily from animal studies. Randomized controlled trials in humans should evaluate the effect of coffee/caffeine on measures of glycemia, insulin sensitivity, endothelial dysfunction, and inflammation.

  6. Understand the association between coffee and health outcomes in individuals with existing CVD, diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, or depressive symptoms.

    Rationale: Strong evidence supports a protective effect of moderate coffee consumption on chronic disease risk in healthy adults, but its association among those with existing diseases has been less studied. Given that a substantial number of people suffer from these chronic diseases, the role of coffee in preventing other health outcomes in such groups remains understudied.

High-dose Caffeine Intake

  1. Define excessive caffeine intake and safe levels of consumption for children, adolescents, and young adults.

    Rationale: Current research on caffeine and health outcomes has focused primarily on adults. Given the increasing prevalence of energy drink consumption among children, adolescents, and young adults, research is needed to identify safe levels of consumption in these groups.

  2. Determine the prevalence of excessive caffeine intake in children and adults beyond intake of energy drinks.

    Rationale: Data on the sources (other than energy drinks) and doses of caffeine intake in children and adults are limited. Identifying the sources and safe levels of consumption will help in formulating policy and framing recommendations.

  3. Examine the effect of excessive consumption of caffeine and energy drinks on health outcomes in both children and adults.

    Rationale: Prospective studies of associations of excessive caffeine and energy drink intake with health outcomes in children and adults are necessary, as randomized controlled trials are not be feasible given ethical constraints.

  4. Conduct observational studies to examine the health effects of alcohol mixed with energy drinks.

    Rationale: In recent years, consumption of alcohol energy drinks by adolescents has resulted in emergency room admissions and deaths. No data exist on the prospective association between consumption of alcohol energy drinks and health outcomes in both adolescents and adults.


  1. Examine the risks of aspartame related to some cancers, especially hematopoietic ones, and pregnancy outcomes.

    Rationale: Limited and inconsistent evidence suggests a possible association between aspartame and risk of hematopoietic cancers (non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma) in men, indicating the need for long-term human studies. Additionally, limited and inconsistent evidence indicates a potential for risk of preterm delivery, which warrants further research.

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