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Food For Thought: Healthy Planet Left Behind In U.S. Dietary Guidelines

Cheryl Anderson, assistant professor of preventative medicine at UC San Diego's School of Medicine, discusses food and health guidelines with Evening Edition Host Peggy Pico.

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A recommendation to include food system sustainability as part of the federal dietary guidelines has prompted a national conversation on the connection between food and health.

The guidelines, issued every five years by Department of Agriculture, explains which foods should be added to more diets and which ones should be cut back on.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack rejected a proposal by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory panel last week to consider cutting back on meat for the sake of the planet.

Cheryl Anderson, an assistant professor of preventative medicine at UC San Diego's School of Medicine who served on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, said the rejection was disappointing.

The committee included sustainability into its recommendation after building a framework that included people’s social and cultural environment, Anderson said.

“Sustainability came into the discussion because of that framework,” Anderson told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday. “There was evidence that plant-based diets were indeed more sustainable than meat diets.”

Although the committee’s recommendation to consider sustainability was rejected, Anderson said it sparked a new conversation.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the nation to have this conversation around sustainability of our food supply,” she said. “It’s being looked at in such a prominent way.”

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