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Feds Release New Dietary Guidelines

WASHINGTON--The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) released the latest set of dietary guidelines for the general population. The new guidelines, designed to promote health and reduce the risk of major chronic diseases and obesity through diet and exercise, recommend Americans consume fewer calories, exercise regularly and increase their intake of fruits and vegetables.

The new guidelines reflect the consensus of a 13-member panel of scientists and doctors that spent nearly a year reviewing Americans diet and health.

Controlling calories--not limiting or eliminating certain food groups--is the pathway to controlling weight, the panel concluded. This includes choosing fats and carbohydrates wisely by severely restricting artery-clogging trans fat; increasing consumption of high fiber fruits, vegetables and whole grains; and lowering intake of simple sugars and refined grains. People should consume five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, depending on age and activity level, according to the new guidelines. Serving sizes were given in cups.

The panel also recommended Americans get 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days, noting many adults need to exercise for 60 minutes or more to prevent weight gain, while those who have lost weight may need to exercise for 60 to 90 minutes to prevent regain.

There are some changes to the old Food Pyramid, such as adding specific recommendations for consuming oily fish such as salmon, trout or herring, rich in the heart-healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). According to the new guidelines, Americans should double their consumption of oily fish to two 4-oz. servings per week to combat heart disease. However, as most Americans are not big consumers of oily fish, the recommendation poses an opportunity for suppliers of high-quality fish oil supplements. According to Robert Orr, president of Ocean Nutrition Canada (ONC), the use of dietary supplements as well as functional foods using GRAS (generally recognized as safe) fish oil are viable options to fulfill the USDA recommendation. Consumers now have the option for food products possessing the health benefits of fish without the need to change their diets, Orr said.

In addition to oily fish, mention of dietary supplements and fortified foods also debuts in the new guidelines, with specific recommendations for particular population groups. For example, the guidelines advise women of childbearing age to take 400 mcg/d of synthetic folic acid from fortified foods or supplements in addition to food forms of folate from a varied diet. The guidelines also propose all individuals over the age of 50 meet their Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin B12 by eating foods fortified with vitamin B12 or by taking vitamin B12 supplements in crystalline form; suggest women consume foods fortified with iron; and recommend elderly and dark-skinned people take supplemental vitamin D.

The report takes another step in the right direction, albeit a small one, in recognizing the role of dietary supplements in an adequate diet, particularly for populations with special needs, said David Seckman, executive director and chief executive officer of the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA), in a statement. When it comes to supplements, these guidelines are more ideal than real. Studies confirm most Americans dont get adequate nutrition through the foods they eat. The nutrient gap the guidelines refer to is much wider and affects more people than this report would lead you to believe.

Regarding this nutrient gap, Annette Dickinson, Ph.D., president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), said dietary supplements represent a realistic means for average Americans to consume enough nutrients to satisfy the new guidelines. The fact is that many people do not get all the nutrients they need from diet alone, and there are clear health benefits from getting the full recommended amounts of all vitamins and minerals, Dickinson said. "Multivitamins and calcium supplements can provide consumers with a major boost in their attempts to meet their nutrient needs while controlling cost and avoiding excess calories. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines flag important nutrient shortfalls, and ideally the Food Guide Pyramid (when it comes out) should feature a flag on top to remind people to use appropriate supplements in addition to improving their diets and adopting a healthier lifestyle. Supplements can be an integral part of an optimal diet and should always be viewed in the context of a healthy lifestyle."

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 is available in its entirety at www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines.

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