The advisory committee that helps craft the nation's dietary guidelines considers the obesity epidemic to be "the single greatest threat to public health in this century" and, thus, focused a recent report on disseminating evidence-based guidelines and recommendations aimed at "halting and reversing the obesity problem through primary prevention and changes in behavior, the environment and the food supply."
Dietary guidelines are reviewed and updated every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, and HHS. The agencies will use the advisory report, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010(www.cnpp.usda.gov), by the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, as well as public comments(www.cnpp.usda.gov) received through July 15, to craft the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The advisory report says the number of deaths related to poor diet and physical inactivity is increasing and may soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of death in the United States.
"On average, Americans of all ages consume too few vegetables, fruits, high-fiber whole grains, low-fat milk and milk products, and seafood, and they eat too much added sugars, solid fats, refined grains and sodium," the report says.
The FDA is inviting the public to submit comments(edocket.access.gpo.gov) to help the agency implement a new federal law that will require certain restaurants and other retail food operations to provide consumers with their menu items' calorie content and other nutritional information.
Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act sets new federal requirements for foods sold at certain restaurants, coffee shops, delis, movie theaters, bakeries, ice cream shops and in vending machines. Specifically, the law requires food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations that offer substantially the same menu items to list calorie content information on menus and menu boards, including drive-through menu boards.
Other nutrition information -- total calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber and total protein -- must be made available in writing on request. The act also requires vending machine operators who own or operate 20 or more machines to disclose the calorie content of their items.
Comments can be submitted online through Sept 7.
The report notes that sugars and solid fats contribute about 35 percent of calories to the American diet. Furthermore, the top energy source for adults ages 19 years and older and for children ages 4-13 years is grain-based desserts.
The committee summarized its recommendations by highlighting the following four priorities:
- reduce overweight and obesity 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 and to one that emphasizes increased intake of seafood and fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products and consumption of only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry and eggs;
- significantly reduce intake of foods containing added sugars and solid fats;
- reduce sodium intake;
- eat fewer refined grains, especially those in foods with added sugar, solid fat and sodium; and
- meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans(www.health.gov) issued by HHS.
The committee suggested that the current goal of consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day should be reduced to 1,500 milligrams. The committee referred to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine for methods to achieve this level through gradual reductions.
The committee also advised Americans to consume less than 7 percent of their calories from saturated fat, down from existing recommendations of less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats.
Committee members said Americans consume less than the recommended amount of several vitamins and minerals, but they specifically identified fiber, potassium, vitamin D and calcium as items of concern because of evidence that low intake is directly related to important health issues.
The committee reviewed nearly 2,000 research articles in the process of answering nearly 200 questions they received in the areas of nutrient adequacy; energy balance and weight management; fatty acids and cholesterol; carbohydrates and protein; sodium, potassium and water; alcohol; and food safety and technology.