USDA and HHS Release 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The final recommendations deviate little from last June's committee report, but they do go softer on sodium.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

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"Enjoy your food, but eat less." That simple message may be the main point in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were released on January 31, 2011.

Oh, there are some specifics about less sodium and more vitamin D and potassium. But this year's guidelines, moreso than any previous edition, fully acknowledge that the No. 1 health crisis confronting this country is not cancer, heart disease or high blood pressure, but obesity … which can lead to those diseases and many others.

"The overarching theme this year was to tackle obesity," said Roger Clemens, professor at University of Southern California and a member of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. That committee drafted suggestions that became the basis for the official guidelines created jointly by USDA and the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

"Because more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, the seventh edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity," said an announcement accompanying the guidelines.

Dietary Guidelines; What you Need, What you Don't
Foods and ingredients as a percent of their goals or limits

The guidelines contained no major deviations from the draft released by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee last June committee. But the final report did seem to water down the recommendation on sodium. The committee recommended for everyone "a gradual reduction in sodium," from the current 2,300mg per day to 1,500mg. The final guidelines leave it at 2,300mg per day except for various segments of the population – which, the final report notes, "applies to about half of the U.S. population."

The official and full document is presented in six chapters. After the Chapter 1 introduction, the headings are:

  • Chapter 2: Balancing calories to manage weight -- Explains the concept of calorie balance, describes some of the environmental factors that have contributed to the current epidemic of overweight and obesity, and discusses diet and physical activity principles that can be used to help Americans achieve calorie balance.
  • Chapter 3: Foods and food components to reduce – This is the one for food processors (and ingredient suppliers) to key on. It focuses on several dietary components that Americans generally consume in excess, compared to recommendations. These include sodium, solid fats (major sources of saturated fats and trans fats), cholesterol, added sugars, refined grains and, for some Americans, alcohol. (More on those later.) The chapter explains that reducing foods and beverages that contain relatively high amounts of these dietary components and replacing them with foods and beverages that provide substantial amounts of nutrients and relatively few calories would improve the health of Americans.
  • Chapter 4: Foods and nutrients to increase – Another bullet point for processors, this one focuses on the nutritious foods that are recommended for nutrient adequacy, disease prevention and overall good health. Those include vegetables; fruits; whole grains; fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products; protein foods, including seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds; and some oils. It also notes nutrients that are under-consumed including potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D.
  • Chapter 5: Building healthy eating patterns -- Shows how the recommendations and principles described can be combined into a healthy overall eating pattern. The existing USDA Food Patterns and DASH Eating Plan are healthy eating patterns that provide flexible templates allowing all Americans to stay within their calorie limits, meet their nutrient needs and reduce chronic disease risk. 
  • Chapter 6: Helping Americans make healthy choices -- Discusses two critically important facts. The first is that the current food and physical activity environment is influential in the nutrition and activity choices that people make — for better and for worse. The second is that all elements of society, including individuals and families, communities, business and industry and various levels of government, have a role to play in the movement to make America healthy. The chapter suggests a number of ways that these players can work together to improve the nation's nutrition and physical activity.

Getting back to Chapter 3. Among "foods and food components to reduce," the document suggests:

  • Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300mg for most healthy people and to 1,500mg for people who are 51 and older, are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. "The 1,500mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children, and the majority of adults," the document notes.
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. 
  • Consume less than 300mg per day of dietary cholesterol. 
  • Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats.
  • Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars. 
  • Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars and sodium. 
  • If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation — up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

Getting back to Chapter 4. Among "foods and nutrients to increase," it recommends:

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