No Surprises in Draft Dietary Guidelines

As expected, sodium took a big hit and plant-based foods got a big boost when the preliminary recommendations for the 2010 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans were announced in June.

Preliminary recommendations will be reviewed by USDA and the Dept. of Health and Human Services, and will be open for public comments until July 15 at www.dietaryguidelines.gov. The full report is at www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-DGACReport.htm.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, composed of 13 nutrition experts, has been meeting for the past year and authored the report. It identified four major findings to improve the dietary health of Americans:

  • Reduce the incidence and prevalence of overweight and obesity of the U.S. population by reducing overall calorie intake and increasing physical activity.
  • Shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. In addition, increase the intake of seafood and fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products and consume only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs.
  • Significantly reduce intake of foods containing added sugars and solid fats; reduce sodium intake and lower intake of refined grains, especially refined grains that are coupled with added sugar, solid fat and sodium.
  • Meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

The committee recommended a gradual reduction in daily sodium intake to 1,500mg per day from the 2,300 mg recommended in 2005, as well as limiting dietary cholesterol to less than 300mg per day (with a further goal of less than 200mg per day for persons at risk for cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes).

The committee strongly recommended USDA and HHS convene committees, potentially through the Institute of Medicine, to develop strategic plans focusing on the actions needed to successfully implement the recommendations.

Perhaps because there were no surprises, the draft guidelines received few brickbats. But there were a few.

The proposed guidelines "perpetuate the mistakes of previous guidelines in demonizing saturated fats and animal foods rich in saturated fatty acids such as egg yolks, butter, whole milk, cheese, fatty meats like bacon and animal fats for cooking," said Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a Washington-based nutrition education foundation. She claimed the proposed guidelines "are a recipe for infertility, learning problems in children and increased chronic disease in all age groups," because "animal fats supply many essential nutrients that are difficult to obtain from other sources." Further, "The current obesity epidemic emerged as vegetable oils and refined carbohydrates replaced these healthy, nutrient-dense traditional fats."

The Natural Products Assn., which has a strong supplement constituency, questioned the report’s statement "a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement does not offer health benefits to healthy Americans." "When less than 25 percent of the U.S. population eats the recommended serving of five fruits and vegetables daily, how are Americans to get the vitamins and minerals they need?" asked NPA Executive Director and CEO John Gay.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association had no immediate comment, good or bad.

The final guidelines will be released at the end of this year or early 2011. They are mandated by Congress to be reviewed and revised every five years. They form the basis of the USDA's updated food pyramid and determine the nutrition standards for all federal nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program, which feeds more than 30 million children a day.

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