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At long last, the new dietary guidelines were announced recently amid controversy about corporate and political influences, sustainable agriculture and food security. So much so, that Congress will hold a hearing to review the science behind the recommendations, even though the highly qualified academic researchers took into account over 4,000 scientific studies. The Dietary Guidelines Committee, an independent group of 14 doctors and scientists, issued a 570-page report reflecting not only general dietary recommendations, but also advising on the environmental impact of food production.
Even though the dietary guidelines are just advisory to many Americans, they are extremely important, as they are mandatory for millions of military personnel, National School Lunch Programs and for approximately 40 million low income families served by the Federal Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.
The committee focused on examining dietary patterns, combinations and quantity of food and nutrients consumed and their synergistic and cumulative effects on health and disease. Here is what the committee determined:
Half of all American adults--117 million individuals--have one or more preventable chronic diseases
Nearly two-thirds of adults –155 million people—are overweight or obese
Two decades of poor dietary patterns, over consumption of excess calories and lack of physical activity are contributing factors in obesity and chronic disease
Positive lifestyle and dietary changes could substantially improve public health outcomes
The most under consumed nutrients, resulting in a shortfall and adverse health outcomes, are vitamins A, E and C, folate, calcium, magnesium, fiber and potassium
Iron deficiency was listed as a nutrient shortfall for adolescent and postmenopausal females
Teen boys and adult males consume too much animal protein and not enough plant based foods
The majority of the population consume a diet too high in saturated fat, added sugars and sodium and too low in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy
A healthy dietary pattern associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity was identified as higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in alcohol consumption; and lower in red and processed meats, sugar and refined grains
Multi-component obesity prevention recommendations included nutrition education, improved dietary intake of fruits and vegetables, increased access to healthy food in low income and undeserved communities and promotion of physical activity
A focus on sustainable diets that are higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods as more health promoting with a lower environmental impact
Linking health, dietary guidance and the environment will promote human health and sustainability of natural resources and ensure short and long term food security
In a nutshell, a moderate amount of coffee is beneficial, added sugars should be limited to 10% of daily calories, sodium intake should not exceed one teaspoon daily, and limits on eggs and dietary cholesterol consumption were removed but suggestions were made to eat in moderation within a healthy eating pattern
The well intentioned advice to eat a more plant based diet to protect against obesity, heart disease, cancer and other serious nutrition related health conditions is still up against sophisticated and powerful marketing campaigns of special interest groups that promote foods and beverages that directly contradict this advice. Don’t expect them to give up easily. It’s up to you, as an individual to educate yourself on the health benefits of good nutrition, and then decide for yourself which of these recommendations will promote your optimal health.
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