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The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its recommendations for how the nation’s nutritional recommendations should change, following a year-long review of how Americans should and do eat.

Among the recommendations:

  • Americans should consume only about a teaspoon of salt each day, or less than 2,300 milligrams daily

  • Fish should be eaten at least twice a week, so that Americans get enough omega-3 fatty acids.

  • As for heart-unhealthy trans-fatty acids, which are found in stick margarine and many pies, cookies and fried foods, the committee urged that Americans keep their intake of these partially hydrogenated oils at or below one percent of total calories.

  • The committee also recommended that Americans pay attention to calorie consumption in order to control weight, and consume a wide variety of foods, and be careful about carbohydrate and sugar consumption. The committee also urged increased daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, as well as nonfat or low-fat milk and milk products. The panel suggested eating three servings of whole grains daily.

  • Alcohol should be consumed in moderation.

  • Physical activity was also a focus of the committee’s recommendations, as they suggested that people trying to lose weight should exercise as much as 90 minutes a day, with people who are not overweight exercising a half-hour each day.

The panel’s recommendations are to be used to shape school lunch programs, the labels that go on food products, and the shape and makeup of the commonly known food guide pyramid.

According to numerous published reports, the biggest controversy in the new recommendations is likely to be generated by the fact that there is no specific call to restrict sugar intake – which seems to make the sugar lobby happy if annoying critics like Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.

In response to the committee’s report, the Grocery Manufactures of America (GMA) issued the following statement from Mark Nelson, its Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs:

“The Committee’s focus on calories is critical because – as the Committee states – calories do count. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires that we strike the right balance between how much we eat and what we do to burn calories. To achieve that goal, we must either eat less, move more or – ideally – do both.

“We also support the Committee’s recommendation that consumers reduce their intake of both saturated and trans fats. Given the negative impact these fats have on health, GMA’s members companies are striving to formulate products that not only have little or no trans fat, but that also have lower levels of saturated fat.

“However, GMA does have some initial concerns about the report. While it is necessary to consume three servings of whole grains each day, the Committee’s report ignores the importance of enriched grains as good sources of micronutrients such as folic acid and iron, which the Committee identifies in the report as critical for the health of children and women of childbearing age.

“Additionally, the report does not provide recommendations for alternative sources of calcium. Calcium-fortified foods and beverages are proven alternatives to dairy products for individuals who are lactose intolerant or who choose not to consume dairy products for religious or personal reasons.”

The final version of the guidelines, developed by both the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are scheduled to be released in 2005.
KC's View:
There is bound to be plenty of debate about these new recommendations…and it’ll continue through until the new version of the food pyramid is released.

But as the GMA response suggests, there will be plenty of room for criticism once people have had a chance to digest – pun intended – the entire report.