“A PLANT BASED DIET. LESS SALT. MORE EXERCISE. THE NEW GUIDELINES MIGHT NOT TURN US AROUND, BUT THEY’RE A START”
The U.S. Government has just served up a heaping mouthful to people who eat – the report of the dietary guidelines advisory committee on the dietary guidelines for Americans, 2010. it not only squarely addresses the undeniable – that two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese and that our children are on a similar trajectory – it also recasts some advice we have heard before: urging Americans, for instance, to shift their diets away from meat and animal protein and fats – foods such as red meat, cheese and butter – toward a more “plant-based diet,” a term that includes not just fresh fruits and vegetables but also foods such as nuts and lentils and olive or canola oil. Then the report goes further. It recommends that we slash our salt intake by almost a third. It makes clear that people put their health at risk when they, on a weekly basis, do less than 2 ½ hours of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise. And it discusses at length the social and economic forces at work that have made good diets and adequate exercise easy for Americans to achieve.
The report – 677 pages and 2 years in the drafting – is the first step in the federal governments effort to (again) shape what, and how, Americans should eat to optimize their well-being. It has embarked on this effort every five years since 1980. The bland title belies a history of controversy. In the last two decades, clinical nutrition researchers have generated tomes of maddeningly contradictory advice for healthful eating. At the same time, nutrition watchdogs have charged that the food and restaurant industries and American farmers – in short, sector with powerful financial interests at stake – have effectively hijacked the dietary guidelines. Meanwhile, Americans have grown fatter and sicker. With its latest report, an advisory panel of 13 independent experts in health and nutrition has tried to (again) lay to rest these controversies and lay the groundwork for dietary guidelines based on research evidence. Released June 15, the report (available online at www.enpp.usda.gov) will be open for public comment until July Focused on visualizing future life. It’s a joint product of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As our roundup of expert opinion demonstrates, the debate is far from over.