American obesity informs draft 2010 Dietary Guidelines

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dietary guidelines, Nutrition, Dietary guidelines advisory committee

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee has released its preliminary recommendations, saying that America’s obesity epidemic has been influential in developing the draft report.

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. A comment period is now open, with the final 2010 guidelines expected to be published later this year.

In a covering letter addressed to US Department of Agriculture secretaries Tom Vilsack and Kathleen Sibelius, the Committee’s chair Linda Van Horn wrote: “The single most sobering aspect of this Report is the recognition that we are addressing an overweight and obese American population…Everything within this Report is presented through the filter of an obesegenic environment in critical need of change.”

Although many of the recommendations are the same as those detailed in the 2005 guidelines, there are some changes, particularly regarding strategies to tackle excess body weight. These include recommendations that children should greatly reduce intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and consume smaller amounts of fruit juice.

Sodium

As expected, the preliminary guidelines recommend a reduction in maximum sodium intake from 2,300mg a day to 1,500mg. The 2005 guidelines specified that only hypertensive people, blacks and those of middle-age or older should adhere to a 1,500mg limit, but these groups now constitute about 70 percent of the American population.

Other changes include a recommendation to move toward reducing saturated fat intake to no more than seven percent of calories, and to eat two servings of seafood a week, contributing an average of 250mg per day of omega-3 fatty acids from marine sources.

Food industry responsibilities

The report also tackles the issue of availability, suggesting that healthy foods should be made more affordable, that the food industry should be encouraged to produce foods with lower levels of solid fats, added sugar and refined grains, and that processed foods should be offered in smaller portions.

Following the release of the Committee’s report, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest Margo Wootan said that the guidelines have not changed very much since they were first published in 1980 – the problem is that the public does not follow them.

She said: “The new Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report, at long last, recognizes that what is most needed is an unprecedented effort to help people follow the Dietary Guidelines, including changes in policy and the food environment. The report wisely recommends that USDA and HHS develop a national strategy to help people eat better, including ramping up nutrition education, expanding access to fruits and vegetables, and getting industry to provide more-healthful products.”

Overall, the report said that based on the Committee’s review of the scientific evidence, American’s should reduce calories and get more exercise; shift toward a more plant-based diet; eat more seafood and low-fat dairy; eat fewer foods containing added sugar and solid fats; and reduce intake of sodium and refined grains.

The Committee report and information on how to submit comments can be accessed here​.

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