Skip to comments.U.S. Diet Guide Puts Emphasis on Weight Loss
Posted on 01/13/2005 1:49:26 PM PST by neverdem
WASHINGTON Jan. 12 - The federal government issued new dietary guidelines for Americans on Wednesday, and for the first time since the recommendations were introduced in 1980, they emphasize weight loss as well as healthy eating and cardiovascular health.
The guidelines, which follow several years of reports that Americans are fatter than ever, recommend eating many more fruits and vegetables, more low-fat milk, more whole grains and increasing exercise to as much as an hour and a half a day. But some critics question whether they will make any difference in an increasingly fat America.
In announcing the guidelines Wednesday, Ann M. Veneman, the agriculture secretary, and Tommy Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, sounded more like diet gurus than cabinet members. Ms. Veneman said that Americans spent $42 billion a year on diet and health books, indicating the nation's desire to slim down. Mr. Thompson characterized the guidelines as the government's version of a diet book.
"Tonight eat only half the dessert," Mr. Thompson said. "And then go out and walk around the block. And if you are going to watch television get down and do 10 push-ups and 5 sit-ups."
The food industry has already begun to offer more products with whole grains, fewer calories and smaller sizes.
Even critics of government nutrition policies applauded many of the changes, including recommendations that Americans eat less added sugars and less trans fats. But some said they were disappointed that no limits were set for the amount of those substances people should eat.
For example, the guidelines recommend that consumers limit trans fat, partly hydrogenated vegetable oils that have been found to be worse for the body than even saturated fat. But while the advisory committee report that was the basis for guidelines capped intake of trans fat at 1 percent of total calories, that limit was not included in the recommendations.
That was a clear victory for food manufacturers who rely on hydrogenated oils for a variety of processed foods, and who lobbied against the numeric limit. While many companies are eliminating trans fats from their products, the Agriculture Department has estimated that they are in 40 percent of processed foods.
The guidelines were a matter of intense lobbying by industry and advocacy groups over the past year.
The advisory committee, which recommended more dairy products, cited a report, partly financed by the dairy industry, that found that low-fat dairy products helped people lose weight.
After lobbying by the sugar industry, the Department of Health and Human Services helped persuade the World Health Organization in 2003 to eliminate a recommendation that sugar account for no more than 10 percent of calories.
But the final recommendation on sugar in the guidelines is actually a bit stronger than the one in the advisory committee report, which said only to choose carbohydrates wisely. The new guidelines say people should consume foods and beverages with little added sugars.
Dr. Richard Adamson, the vice president of scientific and technical affairs for the American Beverage Association, a trade group, said in an interview Wednesday that there was no proof that people gained weight because they consumed added sugar or lost weight when they cut back. Dr. Adamson said he objected to the guidelines' assertion that studies indicated that beverages with sugar and other caloric sweeteners made people gain weight.
But Dr. Kelly Brownell, director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders and a prominent food industry critic, said that over all, he was pleased. "These guidelines are a clear step ahead of where previous ones were," Dr. Brownell said. "The issues on weight control are more specific than in the past, specifically with exercise and the suggestions on limiting added sugars and caloric sweeteners and things like soft drinks."
Still, he said, specific guidelines for sugars and trans fats would have been better.
Among the changes in the guidelines is a call for whole grains to make up half the grains in people's diets, at least three ounces every day. The daily servings of fruits and vegetables rose to nine, from five. The guidelines recommend three cups of low-fat or fat-free dairy products a day, up from two cups.
Saturated fat and cholesterol recommendations remain the same: 10 percent of calories from saturated fat and less than 300 milligrams a day of cholesterol. But while the government previously recommended that fat account for no more than 30 percent of total calories, the current recommendation is a range of from 20 percent to 35 percent.
Maximum levels of sodium have been reduced from 2,400 milligrams a day to 2,300, which is about one teaspoon a day.
Previously, the government recommended a half hour of exercise a day. The new guidelines say that is a minimum and that 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise is needed to keep from gaining weight. Sixty to 90 minutes are needed to lose weight. Activities could include walking, bicycling and hiking.
The biggest question is what impact these guidelines will have. They will be used to recreate or replace the food pyramid, the government's graphic depiction of a proper diet. The new version is expected in a month or two.
But whether consumers will use, or even be aware of, the guidelines remains to be seen.
"I don't think many people read them or understand them," Dr. Brownell said, "because the government puts very little muscle into marketing them. If you ask 10 people on the street do they know about this or previous guidelines no one will know anything, but if you ask them what candy melts in your mouth not in your hand, 9 out of 10 will know."
Federal school lunch programs, and other federal food programs, must abide by the guidelines. But Ellen Haas, a former Agriculture Department official, said about 30 percent of the government subsidized lunches at school did not follow government guidelines and were high in fat, salt and sugar.
At the moment the two agencies responsible for the guidelines, the Agriculture Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, have earmarked no money for promotion. Nor have they begun developing partnerships with private industry to disseminate the information in the guidelines.
Asked at a news conference introducing the guidelines whether the government had any plans to limit advertising and marketing of less-healthy food to children, Mr. Thompson called advertising a form of free speech and said the administration "would not in any way curtail people's freedom" to say what they wanted.
Kim Severson contributed reporting from New York for this article.
Wouldn't that be considered whole grains?
Funny. I went to a lower carb, but higher fat diet and my cholesterol dropped from 195 to 145.
1st it was 15 minutes a day, then 20,then 30, now 90?
All the 'healthy' will have time to do is eat all their servings of veggies and exercise. Good excuse to quit work?
Beer/Alcohol=Get Drunk! This equation brought to you by the Free Dinkers Society......No Charge!
That's "Free Drinkers Society"
"Hmmm...your ideas intrigue me. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter." - Homer Simpson
Personally, I can't understand why they recommend any sugar in a nutritional diet (outside of those naturally occuring in fruit, etc.)
As I understand it, raw sugar is only a recent addition to the diets of western man, relatively speaking (sometime in the mid-18th century, I think).
And we've seen nothing but related health problems since. Like alcohol, I believe it is only good in moderation, though I'm certainly not recommending it be regulated in the same way as alcohol.
Too much fruit and too much milk. What a bunch of yo-yos. Who the hell needs all that fruit??? Fresh veggies are one thing (not counting starchy veggies like peas and corn), but that's too much fruit. You can get your fiber and vitamins from other sources.
I made it 4.5 days once, but it was unsustainable.
I fast every other day now - fast 36 hours, eat what I want for 12 hours - and it works for me.
I believe that, when your stomach is empty, your body has a chance to direct the energy used for digesting food into healing and producing hormones.
When your stomach is full, 50% of your energy is going toward food digestion.
FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.
Fearless prediction forthcoming: They're saying that 60% of Americans are overweight. Let's accept that premise for the moment. Can it be too soon before we hear that 95% of those overweight Americans are Democrats? Think about it? ask yourselves..what are the politics of most heavyset people you know?
Fasting is a great way to cleanse your body, too. I try to do it once a week for 36 hours. I think it's a great way to learn to appreciate real food - sure that Whopper looks good now...but bleh... :-)
Lardbutts are lardbutts, you can't correlate that with political affiliation.
You got it! I wonder how long it is gonna take for people to realize that, even with the wild success of the Atkins and other low-carb, no processed sugar diets...
That's interesting. I wonder if you are eating a higher ratio of unsaturated fats or is some other biochemical change involved. I wonder if this is a trend.
I'm amazed the low-carb diet works. I've gone on low fat diabetic diets with my pregnancies and couldn't believe the huge amount of food I had to eat to get the desired weight gain.
My cholesterol has gone a few points higher this year. Corresponds to getting cable and the Food Network! I've become the queen of the butter sauces.