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Dietary Guidelines do improve nutrition, says committee chair

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 26-Oct-2010

Although the Dietary Guidelines for Americans may seem similar to those published in 1980, they contain distinct differences, and certain aspects of Americans’ diets have improved as a result, claims a new commentary.

The Dietary Guidelines are revised every five years in order to reflect changes in nutrition knowledge over time, including a review of contemporary US intakes of various foods and nutrients, examining those areas in which consumption may be inadequate, or where it may be excessive. Although many of the recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report are the same as those detailed in the 2005 guidelines, there are some changes, particularly regarding strategies to tackle excess body weight.

Even when the first guidelines were published in 1980, recommendations included reduced consumption of added sugars, total fat, saturated fatty acids (SFA), cholesterol, and sodium; and increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Later, recommendations to decrease intake of animal fat and salt were added.

“Does this sound familiar?” asks Linda Van Horn, Chair of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and editor of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association – before adding that “there are indeed distinct and defining differences” in the 2010 report.

She notes in particular that average American intake of total fat and saturated fat have decreased to 33.6 percent and 11.4 percent of energy, respectively, according to the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data – compared to 42 and 14 percent before the first guidelines were published.

“Although recommendations in this report include reducing SFA to less than 10 percent of total energy, with an ultimate goal of a decrease to 7 percent of total energy, there is no question that substantial population-wide reduction has occurred,” she wrote.

In addition, she said that the current guidelines are the first to be entirely evidence-based, emphasizing the significance of the recommendations; and they also give some dietary guidance to vulnerable population subgroups for the first time, such as pregnant women, babies and infants; from 2015 the guidelines will encompass all ages from birth onward, rather than from age two.

Van Horn underlined that the 2010 guidelines address an unhealthy US population for the first time, with 72.3 percent of women and 64.1 percent of men considered overweight or obese.

“A large proportion of American people at all ages are overfed and undernourished,” she wrote. “…Given the dismal success rate of weight loss efforts in adulthood, and the even less successful efforts to maintain weight loss once it is achieved, primary prevention in childhood becomes the single most potentially powerful method for halting and reversing America’s obesity epidemic.”

Source: Journal of the American Dietetic Association

doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2010.08.018

“Development of the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report: Perspectives from a Registered Dietitian”

Author: Linda Van Horn