Dietary Guidelines focus on sodium intake, sugary drinks, dairy alternatives

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, Milk

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are currently being revised, and sodium intake, sweetened drinks, and dairy alternatives are some of the topics of discussion, according to the American Society for Nutrition.

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. The Committee recently held its fifth meeting of six, and its recommendations are due to be presented at the final Committee meeting on May 12. A comment period is expected to open in June, with the full 2010 guidelines to be published later this year.

The American Society of Nutrition (ASN) has published a report on the guidelines in its latest newsletter, in which it said one of the key findings of the Committee related to children’s consumption of sugary drinks.

“In regard to carbohydrates, there is a consistent relationship between soft drink intake and weight gain,” ​ASN said. “However, varying methods for measuring added sugars make these studies hard to compare. For overweight and obese children, there will be efforts to reduce overall energy intake with a focus on reducing added sugars (mainly in the form of soft drinks and sugar sweetened beverages), sodium and saturated fat intake.”

Cutting sodium recommendations

The Committee is also considering lowering the recommended maximum intake of sodium to 1,500mg per day, as opposed to the current limit of 2,300mg. Current official estimates of average American sodium intake range from 3,400mg to 4,000mg a day.

The proposed lowering of the maximum daily sodium intake comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended such a 1,500mg limit in March for those it claims are particularly at risk of sodium-related illness – a group that brackets nearly 70 percent of the population. It includes blacks and everyone over the age of 40, as well as those who already have high blood pressure.

Milk alternatives

A clutch of comments submitted to the Committee were concerned about a lack of alternatives for milk and milk products within the Dietary Guidelines, considering that many Americans are lactose intolerant.

The American Society for Nutrition said that soymilk was suggested as an alternative for milk, as it is “closest in nutrients to traditional milk.”

“The recommendation will be that those who choose not to consume milk or milk products should choose lactose- reduced, lactose-free or soymilk instead,”​ it said.

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products, and affects approximately 25 percent of American adults, although the rate varies according to race and age. The intolerance, which can cause gas or diarrhea, varies in severity, so most people are still able to consume at least some dairy.

The ASN said the overarching issues in considering the new dietary recommendations include:

  • High prevalence of overweight and obesity among all Americans
  • Focus on added sugar, fats, refined carbohydrates, and sodium instead of discretionary calories
  • Desire to shift the general intake to plant-based diets
  • How individuals may achieve physical activity guidelines
  • How to change the food environment to help individuals meet the Dietary Guidelines.

The ASN newsletter can be found online here​.

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