U.S. issues updated dietary guidance

Jan 07, 2016, 5:18 PM EST
Source: Japanexperterna.se/flickr
Source: Japanexperterna.se/flickr

The U.S. Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments have issued new dietary guidelines for all Americans which include drastically cutting back sugar intake, and have recategorized previously frowned upon cholesterol-containing foods such as eggs. Cutting back on meat is also a tenet of the new guidelines. The New York Times reports:

Despite those warnings, the guidelines were also notable for what they did not say. While draft recommendations had suggested all Americans adopt more environmentally-sustainable eating habits by cutting back on meat, that advice was dropped from the final guidelines. And longstanding limits on dietary cholesterol were also removed, a victory for the nation’s egg producers, which have long argued that cholesterol from eggs and seafood is not a major health concern.
 
The dietary guidelines, issued by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments, are updated every five years and were first issued in 1980. Typically, they have encouraged Americans to consume more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, and low-fat foods, while restricting intake of saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol. Though many individual consumers may not give the guidelines much thought, the recommendations have the potential to influence the diets of millions of Americans. The guidelines affect the foods chosen for the school lunch program, which feeds more than 30 million children each school day, and they help shape national food assistance programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, which has eight million beneficiaries.
 
 
You might remember the food pyramid poster from your grade school classroom, or the "My Plate" icon from your child's cafeteria. Those earnest posters are a boiled-down version of a complicated food science discussion between government-appointed experts and all the other players in this food fight, including dietitians, scientists, doctors, medical associations, the food industry and the public. The guidelines are revised every five years, and the draft version of this year's guide came in months ago at more than 500 pages.
 
In the end, there are some breadcrumbs -- whole-wheat, of course -- of advice to follow. The guidance affects everything from what's served in school and prison lunches to how food labels work. It helps dietitians guide their clients. Experts say it also puts pressure on manufacturers and restaurants about what they put in their food.
 
 
Now comes a new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, which finds that Americans who consumed the most sugar — about a quarter of their daily calories — were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who limited their sugar intake to 7 percent of their total calories.
 
To translate that into a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, the big sugar eaters were consuming 500 calories a day from sugar — that's 31 teaspoons. Those who tamed their sweet tooth the most, by contrast, were taking in about 160 calories a day from sugar — or about 10 teaspoons per day.
 
Unfortunately, most Americans have a sugar habit that is pushing toward the danger zone.
 
"The average American is consuming 22 teaspoons a day. That's about three times what's recommended," says Laura Schmidt of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine.
 
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE