Sunday, February 13, 2011

What's New in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010?

Every five years since 1980, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services release an updated Dietary Guideline for Americans. These are recommendations based on the latest research and statistics and direct how we should be eating to be healthy. The 2010 version was released on January 31, 2011 and will guide the food included in school and elderly lunch programs, federal grants for research, nutrition education programs, environmental policy and government publications.

So what is new? Past Guidelines have been written for healthy Americans ages 2 years and older. However, with two thirds of adults and one third of children overweight or obese, the 2010 Guidelines are intended for all Americans, even those at risk of chronic disease.

 Because obesity has been linked to higher incidence of high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers, encouraging Americans to trim their waistlines would increase the health of our citizens while reducing health care costs, helping to strengthen American’s long-term economic competitiveness and overall productivity.

To help Americans make healthy food choices, two lists were created - food and food components to eat less of and foods to increase. On the reduction list are sodium, saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, calories from solid fats and added sugars, refined grains and excess alcohol. Foods that we should eat more of are fruits and vegetables including more variety in our vegetable choices, whole grains, low fat dairy products, lean protein sources, oils instead of sold fats and foods that contain more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D.

Many of these suggestions may sounds familiar as they are included in MyPyramid, the USDA eating pattern guideline that was released in 2005. The MyPyramid website contains many tools that are useful when trying to apply the 2010 Dietary Guidelines including a food tracker that will count your calories and nutrients and let you know how your intake compares to your needs.

The Guidelines examine the latest food related research to determine which recommendation should be included. One chart listed the top six sources of calories for American adults which were grain-based desserts (#1), yeast breads, soda/energy/sports drinks, pizza, chicken and chicken dishes and alcohol.  . Other research results indicated that the types of food eaten in weight loss diets wasn't signifcant as long as the calories were decreased.

Will Americans change their eating patterns to meet these recommendations? Probably not in five years. However, setting goals and measuring progress towards better health is a good for all of us. Teaching our population how to make these changes will be the job of dietitians, nutrition educators, teachers, nurses and parents. We'd better get started. The health of our nation is at stake!

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