Center for Communications, Health and the Environment
|Spring 2011||Vol. 6, Issue 1|
New U.S. Dietary Guidelines Target Consumption to Combat Obesity, Other Chronic Diseases
Dietary Guidelines 2010 Focus on Obesity, Call for Reduced Sodium, Fat and Sugar Intake
Poor diet and physical inactivity are the principal contributors to an epidemic of overweight and obesity that is affecting men, women and children throughout the United States, and the world. They are also major causes of global morbidity and mortality.
Against this backdrop, the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) were released on January 31, 2011.
First published in 1980, the DGA are reviewed, updated and jointly released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services every five years. They offer advice for making food choices that promote good health and weight, and form the basis of federal nutrition policy, education, outreach and assistance programs. The current guidelines are also intended to assist with disease prevention in Americans ages 2 years and older, including those at increased risk of chronic diseases.
The 2010 DGA were developed using an evidence-based systematic review process involving a 13-member advisory committee of nutrition and public health experts. They take into account the woeful state of American health, with particular emphasis on the challenges of obesity and proper nutrition for children, as well as national food availability and consumption patterns.
The 2010 DGA recommendations feature a section on “Foods and Food Components to Reduce” with specific suggestions that include:
Meanwhile, the “Foods and Nutrients to Increase” segment of the recommendations counsels Americans to:
The 2010 guidelines also take into account specific population groups. For individuals ages 50 years and older, for example, they encourage consumption of foods with added vitamin B12, such as fortified cereals, or dietary supplements. The DGA also offer food and nutrient advice for women capable of becoming pregnant and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
For a complete list of Key Recommendations, go to http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/ExecSumm.pdf. Or to view the DGA document in its entirety, visit http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm.
Compared to the 2005 guidelines, however, “the messages [in the 2010 DGA] are more understandable,” commented Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan in a 1/31/11 statement. And they are decidedly more actionable, with a targeted list that advises consumers to:
In the process of developing the new guidelines, some committee meetings were streamed live via a Webinar format, allowing Americans to hear deliberations and see presentations. And a public comments process ensured a transparent and democratic process. The guidelines acknowledge the profound influence of current U.S. food, screen time and living environments on Americans’ eating behaviors and dietary and physical activity choices. They also incorporate research on eating patterns for the first time, and the eating patterns presented now include vegetarian adaptations.
While the 2005 guidelines put forth precise consumption amounts in various food groups, the 2010 Key Recommendations for food group intake are merely directional. Yet the new guidelines offer many specifics. They advocate for increased seafood consumption. They identify specific foods that should be limited because of their high sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat and added sugars. They urge the public to reduce daily sodium intake, and provide detailed daily amounts and parameters.
Specific actions underway to implement the guidelines include the push to improve school foods, to require menu labeling in chain restaurants and to fund community programs promoting healthy eating and physical activity.
Nevertheless, Wootan warns, “[W]ithout even more serious governmental efforts—such as banning artificial trans fat and limiting sodium in packaged foods—the Dietary Guidelines will hardly be sufficient to fend off the costly and debilitating diet-related illnesses that afflict millions of Americans.”
In fact, it will undoubtedly take a lot more than dietary guidelines to reverse the nation’s damaging diet and deteriorating health. Scientists estimate that only 3 percent of the population follows the DGA. And even if that number is closer to 10 percent as CSPI predicts, that’s hardly enough to inspire a sea change. By acknowledging that good food decisions are increasingly difficult and by offering concrete “fixes,” the 2010 DGA may garner increased attention, and become a greater force in moving Americans to heed the call to health.
|Copyright © 2011 Center for Communications, Health and the Environment (CECHE)
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