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Burton Hearing Focuses on Healthier Living Through Diet, Exercise, Dietary Supplements

WASHINGTON--At a hearing held July 25 in Washington, the Committee on Government Reform ( met to discuss the impact of diet and lifestyle on personal health. Diet, Physical Activity and Dietary Supplements--The Scientific Basis for Improving Health, Saving Money and Preserving Personal Choice also included testimony from people such as Diane Ladd, an actress and certified nutritionist; David Seckman, executive director of the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA); and Paul Coates, Ph.D., director of the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health.

"The hearing focused on prevention, with some of the nation's most renowned experts--from scientists to academics--testifying on record as to the benefits of healthy living through a holistic approach, from diet to supplements," said Robin Gellman, director of communications at the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), who witnessed the hearing. "No one in that room could deny the benefits of a good diet."

Committee Chairman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) opened the session by discussing how the ramifications of not following a diet and exercise plan are already impacting the nation's health. He projected that by 2011, 17 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (the yearly market value of all goods and services produced within U.S.) will be spent on health care.

"Through research, we are learning which nutritional components are best obtained through diet and which are absorbed from supplements," Burton stated. He added that on June 20, in outlining his Health and Fitness Initiative, President Bush stated, "Research suggests that we can reduce cancer deaths in America by one-third, simply by changing our diets and getting more exercise. The evidence is clear--a healthier America is a stronger America."

NNFA's Seckman told the committee that addressing the nation's newest health epidemic--obesity--comes at a very fitting time. He cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stating that 47 million Americans will suffer from illnesses that range from heart disease to cancer due to poor nutrition and inactivity.

"Not only has research demonstrated the health benefits of dietary supplements and foods, it has also shown that they can reduce health care costs by billions of dollars," Seckman testified. He also discussed how the news that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may not be as beneficial as once thought underscores the need for more research and more information about safe and effective alternatives.

After discussing the continued hold-up of federal Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and reminding the committee about the tax fairness act for dietary supplements that he introduced late last year, Burton concluded his remarks by stating, "Improving our health through diet and lifestyle is low-cost and effective. We need to think outside the box and find ways to empower Americans to take charge of their lives, improve their health, and reduce the incidence and tragedy of chronic and life threatening medical conditions."

On July 31, the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia will hold a meeting on weight-loss supplements. The committee is chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who in mid-June requested a report on the subject from the General Accounting Office (GAO).

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