The 2010 Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans

This week, the US Department of Agriculture released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. I've attempted to provide a brief summary of the new recommendations, and will be sharing more information after I've gone through the detailed report.

According to the press release, these guidelines represent the "federal government's evidence-based nutritional guidance to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity."

Children are a particularly important focus of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, given the high level of obesity in children (approximately 32% of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years old are obese) and the fact that risk factors for adult chronic diseases are increasingly found in younger ages.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines acknowledge the heavy toll of diet-related chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis:

  • 37% of Americans have cardiovascular disease
  • 34% of U.S. Adults have hypertension
  • Almost 11% of the population, ages 20 years and older, has diabetes, and 35% of this same age group has pre-diabetes
  • Approximately 41% of the population will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime
  • One out of every two women and one in four men ages 50 years and older will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines consists of five chapters detailing recommendations based on scientific evidence for nutritional factors that are important for promoting health and lowering the risk of diet-related chronic disease. Here are the general recommendations:

  • Balancing Calories to Manage Weight
  • Foods and Food Components to Reduce
  • Foods and Nutrients to Increase
  • Building Healthy Eating Patterns
  • Helping Americans Make Healthy Choices

A basic premise of the Dietary Guidelines is that nutrient needs should be met primarily through consuming foods, rather than through fortified foods and dietary supplements (although these may be useful in some cases).

An oversimplified summary of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines provides a few steps that Americans can start today, including eating less, making half your plate fruits and vegetables, switching to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk, choosing lower sodium foods, and drinking water instead of sugary drinks.

The Executive Summary provides more useful recommendations, including:

  • Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars and sodium
  • Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green and red and orange vegetables and beans and peas
  • Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains; increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains
  • Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.
  • Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories

Interestingly, the recommendations do not specifically mention reducing the consumption of red meat, although at least four of the recommendations imply this. I am sure there were a lot of food politics that went on prior to the release of these recommendations. In any event, I am encouraged by the shift towards a healthier American diet.

I will be reading through each of the five chapters detailing the government's 2010 Dietary Guidelines, and sharing more details from each chapter in future posts. 

What are you thoughts about the new Dietary Guidelines so far? Will they change your eating patterns?

Jeanette from Jeanette's Healthy Living



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