Monday, January 31, 2011

Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010

Today, the USDA and the DHHS released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. The release was accompanied by an 112-page document outlining the new advice for what we should eat. This document was summarized by two over-arching concepts:

  • Maintain a calorie balance over time to achieve and sustain a healthy weight
  • Focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages
Relatively impressive, though benign, advice. Both of those statements are true and are good rules-of-thumb. I contend we have a significant information gap and many people need a great deal of (honest) education to understand what that means (which is what we at Cybercise work on each and every day). 

And, as with most things, the devil is in the details. At this writing, I haven't read all 112 pages though I promise I will. I did a quick skim though and here is my list of pros and cons from the recommendations in the report:
  • Pros
    • Increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviors
    • Recognized calorie needs are different in different stages of life
    • Reduce sodium intake
    • Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible
    • Increase vegetable and fruit intake
    • Increase whole grain intake
    • Account for all foods and beverages consumed
  • Cons
    • Increased intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products (These are highly processed foods and are suspect, at best, as your most healthful choice).
    • Only reduced sodium intake to 2,300 mg/day and then goes on to say 1,500 mg/day recommendations apply to 50% of the population (Huh? Why even go there. Make it 1,500 a day and be done. Who is beholden to the salt lobby?).
    • Suggests an increase in fiber, calcium and Vitamin D, which is good, though sets the stage for more "Now With Added (insert chemical food additive name here)" on package labels. 
    • Suggests we reduce trans fatty acids though doesn't go so far as to eliminate the loophole in current labeling regulations that allow each and every product you consume to have less than .49 grams per serving. (Hello? If you want us to reduce our consumption, get it out of our food.)
Credit where credit is due, this is a pretty good report. While I don't really like the way we create policy in this country (little baby steps at a time so we don't alienate too many special interests), I understand that moving the behemoth of our Government sometimes takes time and always takes compromise. 

Stay tuned for more after I devote the time to read the entire report. Now, if we can implement The Real Food label and eliminate GMO/GE foods. "You may say I'm a dreamer..."

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