Dietary Guidelines and Supplementation

By Daniel Rocha

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are the foundation of the national nutrition policy for the United States, designed to assist the population make better food choices for their health while reducing disease risk. Published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the first set of guidelines was published as Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 1980. Today, an advisory committee reviews and revises the guidelines every five years based on the latest research in nutrition and health. 

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many people had little money to purchase food. So the goal for nutrition advice in the first half of the twentieth century was to help the nation meet its energy needs while eliminating disease due to nutritional deficiencies. 

“In 1980, the first edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released by the USDA and DHHS. The seven guidelines were:

  1. Eat a variety of foods.
  2. Maintain ideal weight.
  3. Avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  4. Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber.
  5. Avoid too much sugar.
  6. Avoid too much sodium (salt).
  7. Drink alcohol only in moderation.” 

(Bobroff Et al 209)

The second edition, released in 1985, maintained most of the guidelines intact but changed “weight guideline” to “maintain desirable weight” and changed “alcohol” to “alcoholic beverages.”

In 1990, the third edition took a more favorable tone using phrases such as “choose a diet” or “use … only in moderation” rather than “avoid too much.”

The fourth edition included the Food Guide Pyramid, introduced in 1992, addressed vegetarian diets and introduced “Nutrition Facts” for food labels. 

The fifth edition, issued in 2000, improved to ten guidelines ten and introduced ABC “Aim for Fitness, Build a Healthy Base, and Choose Sensibly.”

With the sixth edition in 2005, MyPyramid was introduced, helping Americans become better aware of what they eat and their nutrient needs. It was designed to influence a healthy diet, live an active lifestyle, and be aware of a healthy weight that would reduce the risk of weight-related diseases. MyPyramid personalizes dietary recommendations based on height, weight, age, gender, activity level, and weight goals. MyPyramid was replaced in June 2011 with the modified MyPlate graphic and guidelines.

Dietary Supplements

In 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act defined dietary supplements as “products that are not used exclusively as food, but are intended to be consumed in addition to an individual's diet.” By law, dietary supplements are to be taken by mouth and contain one or more nutritional ingredients. Examples of dietary ingredients include vitamins, minerals, herbs or other biological materials, amino acids, and enzymes. Dietary supplements are produced in tablets, capsules, powders, liquids, extracts, or teas and are to be clearly labeled. (Davidson 2019)

“Reasons for taking dietary supplements include:

  • meeting increased requirements during various life stages or during times of reduced food intake
  • replacing a necessary substance not found in large enough quantities in the diet
  • preventing or decreasing the risk of developing a disease or condition
  • boosting the immune system and improving general health
  • boosting energy levels
  • improving mental or physical performance
  • stimulating weight loss
  • reducing symptoms of a disease or health condition” (Davidson 2019) 

Dietary supplements can produce contraindications with conventional drugs and other herbs or nutritional supplements. Consumers are advised to seek information about specific interactions from their healthcare providers. Dietary supplements should be stopped several days before surgery to reduce the risk of excess bleeding. Complications arise from nutritional supplements due to  misuse, or poor regulation of the manufacturing process, as in those imported into the United States

Pro- and Prebiotics

Prebiotics are carbohydrates that act as food for the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that live inside the human digestive system. Prebiotics are foods that cannot be digested by humans but are broken down by intestinal flora. They are often referred to as soluble fiber and include inulin (also called chicory root fiber), oligofructose, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), and galactooligo-saccharides (GOS). (Hodgkins 2020) 

Because they are indigestible, prebiotics contain essentially no calories, and pass through the stomach and small intestine unaltered. In the large intestine, these carbohydrates encounter bacteria that can break them down. Food manufacturers use prebiotics to increase the fiber content and sweetness of foods. (Hodgkins 2020) 


Vegan is a dietary and lifestyle practice that promotes health and peace by reducing the suffering of people and animals while protecting the environment. Vegans are vegetarians who do not eat any foods derived from animal sources (e.g., eggs, dairy products, meat) and do not use products derived from or tested on animals, such as leather, fur, wool, down-filled garments, blankets, and certain cosmetics.

The benefits of a vegan diet include lowered blood pressure, lower rates of cardiovascular disease and stroke, lower blood cholesterol levels, and reduced risks of colon and prostate cancer. But vegetarian diets are still at risk for many conditions, including heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, gallstones, and kidney stones. A vegan diet contains no cholesterol because cholesterol is found only in animal products, which can significantly affect hormone production and disrupt certain body system functions. 

Vegan diets are more challenging to follow and cause more social friction with nonvegans due to evaluating foods, clothing, cosmetics, and other items as not containing animal products. Vitamins, dietary supplements, and prescription medications are asked to be processed using non-vegan ingredients (gelatin for capsules, glycerin in some liquid medications). The complications of replacing animal-derived ingredients in recipes and finding restaurants that offer dishes acceptable to vegans also contribute to it being a demanding lifestyle.

Nutrition is crucial to understand when it comes to dietary guidelines and nutritional supplements. People may display nutritional deficiencies or may require additional supplements to encourage healing of soft tissue damage or to aid in living a healthier lifestyle. Many people may not be educated about the risks of certain supplements or dietary practices such as vegan or ketogenic diets. Remember that restricting macronutrients can cause the body to be deficient in specific vitamins and minerals. 

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Train well my friends. 

Daniel Rocha

Master Train / Nutritionist 

@drocbody IG and Twitter 

Bobroff, L. B., & Nugent, A. P., PhD RNutr. (2019). Dietary Guidelines. In D. S. Hiam (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Diets (3rd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 355-358). Gale.

Davidson, T., A.M. (2019). Dietary Supplements. In D. S. Hiam (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Diets (3rd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 362-366). Gale.

Dupler, D., & Blake, S., ScD. (2020). Veganism. In D. S. Hiam (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine (5th ed., Vol. 5, pp. 2741-2746). Gale.

Hodgkins, F., & Smith, F., ND. (2020). Pro- and Prebiotics. In D. S. Hiam (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine (5th ed., Vol. 4, pp. 2177-2178). Gale.