The Cooper Institute

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Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


2010 (Yes, 2010) Dietary Guidelines Just Relased!

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Eat better

Friday, Feb 04, 2011

The long awaited Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) 2010 have been released! Back in June, we blogged about the completion of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report. This scientific report was written for the Federal government as the basis for developing the DGA. As previously mentioned, the DGA are updated every five years by the Secretaries of the United States Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. They form the basis of Federal nutrition policy, education, outreach, and food assistance programs used by consumers, industry, nutrition educators, and health professionals by providing advice for making food choices that promote good health, a healthy weight, and help prevent disease for Americans ages 2 and over.

So what's recommended in 2010 (2011; yes, the release was a bit delayed)? Well, there are 23 key recommendations for all Americans and 6 recommendations for specific population groups (e.g., pregnant/breastfeeding women, older adults). Click here to read them. The two major themes are:

  1. Maintain calorie balance over time to achieve and sustain a healthy weight.
    • Consume only enough foods/beverages to meet your needs.
    • Increase physical activity.
  2. Focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages.
    • Limit foods/beverages high in sodium, solid fats (saturated, trans), added sugars, and refined grains.
    • Consume more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds.
Also, the DGA recommend that nutrient needs should be met primarily through consuming foods (vs. fortified foods and dietary supplements) and that following a healthy eating pattern like the USDA Food Patterns (MyPyramid) and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan is the best way to meet individual dietary needs.

Sound like a lot of the same? Here are a few specific differences from the DGA 2005:

  • Key recommendations for food group intake are directional (eat more of, eat less of) rather than specific quantitative amounts.
  • A key recommendation to increase seafood intake has been added.
  • Eating behaviors are addressed (e.g., breakfast, snacking, fast food).
  • Specific foods that should be limited because they are substantial sources of sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fats, and added sugars are identified.
  • Guidance on implementing the DGA are provided (e.g., strategies for professionals and suggested improvements to enviornmental influencers).
And here are some controversies I've heard:
  • The sodium guidelines are too high. The American Heart Association (AHA)┬áreleased a comment arguing that all Americans should limit intake of sodium to 1,500 mg/day. The DGA 2010 recommend that "those 51 years and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease" should reduce intake to 1,500 mg/day but that others should just limit intake to 2,300 mg/day. AHA argues that most Americans either have high blood pressure or are at risk of developing it during their lifetime, which supports the need for a national commitment to reducing sodium consumption to less than 1,500 mg/day for all Americans.
  • The saturated fat guidelines are weak. AHA also argued in their public comment that the DGA 2010 should have lowered the saturated fat intake recommendation to 7% or less of calories per day instead of staying with the 2005 recommendation of 10% or less of calories.
While I agree that these new DGA are not earth shattering, I do think they provide significant updates like focusing on weight management and acknowledging barriers to healthy eating in our environment. The 95-page policy document is hefty to print out but contains great resources for health professionals working with clients on improving eating habits. Numerous charts including, "Top 25 Sources of Calories Among Americans," "Three Ways to Make at Least Half of Total Grains Whole Grains," and "Key Consumer Behaviors and Potential Strategies for Professionals" provide easy-to-read and share information that is both important and interesting.

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