Dietary guidelines: Eat less, exercise more

A federal panel's draft report offers familiar advice.

By Susan J. Landers — Posted Sept. 13, 2004

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New recommendations for updating federal dietary guidelines go beyond healthy eating to address the needs of a population that is increasingly obese and has chronic health problems that include hypertension and abnormal blood lipid values.

The report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, released Aug. 27, urges Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nonfat or low-fat dairy products; control calories to manage body weight; and be physically active every day. The report also recommends eating fish twice a week but advises women who are pregnant or lactating and children to avoid eating fish with a high mercury content.

In a change from past years, the report did not single out sugars for specific attention, preferring instead to advise people to choose healthy foods overall with an eye toward controlling calories.

Even small changes in diet, such as eating 50 to 100 fewer calories each day, could help an adult maintain a healthy weight over time, according to the report.

Every five years, an advisory committee is appointed to review the scientific literature on nutrition and make recommendations to the secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services on what the American population should be eating.

The recommendations are then considered for application across the range of government food programs such as the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. They will also be used in shaping nutritional information distributed by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in both graphic and written form.

The report includes some special advice for certain groups.

Women, both teens and those of childbearing age, are urged to consume extra iron and folic acid; everyone older than 50 is advised to take vitamin B-12; and the elderly, people with dark skin and those exposed to little UVB radiation should consume extra vitamin D.

Written comments on the report are being accepted through Sept. 27.

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