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THE NATION

New Dietary Guidelines Are Greener, Fruitier and More Active

The government advisory that dictates school lunch programs and the food pyramid puts a new focus on the need to exercise.


By Rosie Mestel
Times Staff Writer

January 13, 2005

Americans should cut their salt intake to about a teaspoon a day, keep their intake of trans fats "as low as possible," limit added sugars and eat 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables a day, according to the new national dietary guidelines unveiled Wednesday.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, short pieces of pithy advice accompanied by several dozen pages of explanatory text, must be revamped every five years.

School lunch programs and government nutrition education must abide by them, as must the famous food guide pyramid, currently undergoing its own face-lift.

"The guidelines are a solid combination of research science and, more importantly, common sense," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson.

He urged Americans to cut down on dessert, invest in pedometers and "get down and do 10 push-ups" while watching TV after dinner.

The latest guidelines departed in several ways from the 2000 edition.

Fruit and vegetable consumption is almost doubled.

Whole grains should be eaten in three one-ounce servings daily — half the carbohydrates that we eat. Previously a specific quantity was not recommended.

Dairy consumption goes from two or three glasses to three cups of fat-free or low-fat milk each day. And plant and fish oils are given new emphasis for the positive effects they may have on heart health.

The 2005 guidelines also placed fresh focus on balancing calories taken in with calories burned to ward off weight gain.

Adults are advised to exercise moderately for 30 minutes daily for heart health and to work out 60 minutes on most days to prevent weight gain.

Those who were once overweight may need to exercise more — for 60 to 90 minutes a day — if they don't want the pounds to slip back on.

The guidelines edge forward in discouraging consumption of too much sugar, recommending diet regimes that would preclude even one sweetened soda.

The 2005 guidelines reflect the growing concern over the problem of obesity. Some reports have categorized two-thirds of Americans as overweight.

The guidelines, produced jointly by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, are based on a scientific review by a panel of 13 nutrition scientists, who examined thousands of studies on the effects of food on health.

In August, the committee presented a report to the government, which then crafted the formal guidelines.

They can be viewed online at http://www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines .

The 2005 guidelines were greeted with appreciation from some nutrition experts, members of the food industry and consumer groups.

"They look to me like the strongest dietary guidelines yet produced," said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based consumer group focused on food issues.

Dr. Carlos Camargo, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and one of the 13 scientists on the dietary guidelines advisory committee, said he was sorry to see that the final report did not contain an explicit calorie limit for trans fats.

The scientific committee had voted unanimously to restrict trans fats to less than 1% of daily calories.

But Camargo was pleased that the guidelines made an explicit recommendation that Americans limit their calorie intake from added sugars.

Dr. Walter C. Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard University, said that the 2005 guidelines represented a "substantial improvement." However, he faulted them for lumping red meat, poultry, beans and fish together as protein sources because red meat is a less healthy choice.

He also was concerned about the recommended increase in milk because some evidence suggests it may increase rates of prostate cancer.

The Sugar Assn., a sugar industry trade organization, declared itself disappointed by the guidelines' wording on sugar.

Dick Hanneman, president of the Salt Institute, said there was scant scientific rationale for calling on healthy Americans to limit their salt intake to less than 2,300 milligrams daily.

The dietary guidelines will be used to shape a new food education tool, to replace the well-known food pyramid. That new tool, which may or may not be a pyramid, is due out in a few months.

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Latest food rules

The government released new dietary guidelines that restrict salt and intake of trans fats. Here's a look at some of the guidelines -- available at http://www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines -- and how they compare to their counterparts in 2000:

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Weight

2000: Aim for a healthy weight.

2005: Maintain weight in a healthy range by balancing calories from food and beverages with calories expended.

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Exercise

2000: Be physically active each day.

2005: To help manage body weight, engage in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity on most days. To sustain weight loss, increase to up to 90 minutes.

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Food groups

2000: Let the food guide pyramid inform your choices.

2005: Choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods within and among the basic food groups.

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Fruits, vegetables, grains, sugar

2000: Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables and grains daily, especially whole grains. Moderate intake of sugars.

2005: Two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables per day. Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Consume three or more ounces of whole grain products per day. Choose foods with little added sugar.

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Fat

2000: Choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat.

2005: Total fat intake should be from 20% to 35% of calories with most fats coming from sources such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils. Consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fats and keep trans fats as low as possible.

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Sodium

2000: Choose and prepare foods with less salt.

2005: Consume less than 2,300 milligrams or about 1 teaspoon daily.

Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Department of Agriculture
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