Obesity has risen at an epidemic rate in the United States during the past 20 years. Its challenge did not appear overnight, and its scourge will not be resolved quickly or by a singular event. Reversing its upward trend requires collaboration among government and private sectors, as well as a commitment to action by communities across the country. It also demands that each of us assume responsibility for promoting the nation’s health. One important way to do this is by implementing the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.
A Focus on Health
As a commitment to improving the health of Americans and fighting the growing obesity epidemic on a national scale, the president has launched his HealthierUS initiative, which consists of four key strategies:
1. Be physically active each day.
2. Eat a nutritious diet.
3. Get preventative screening.
4. Avoid risky behaviors.
The government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 directly support two of these strategies while setting forth specific, science-based recommendations to help the public reach target nutrition levels, promote healthier lifestyles and reduce risk for major chronic diseases such as high blood pressure.
Taken together, the 2005 guidelines encourage most Americans to eat fewer calories, make wiser food choices and be more active. This is especially important because poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are related to the major causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and certain cancers; unhealthy diets and physical inactivity are also the main factors contributing to the nationwide increase in overweight and obesity.
Jointly published by the U.S. Departments of
Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) every five years
since their debut in 1980, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
target healthy people over the age of 2 who are living in the United
States. With such focus areas as “Adequate Nutrients Within Calorie
Needs,” “Food Groups to Encourage,” “Carbohydrates”
and “Weight Management,” the 2005 directives emphasize making
choices that promote the increased consumption of vegetables, fruit,
low-fat milk products and whole grains, as well as regular physical
activity. They also highlight limiting intake of saturated and trans
fats, added sugars and salt, and alcohol, and, to a much greater extent
than their predecessor document in 2000, underscore balancing caloric
intake with energy needs, with reference to recommended eating patterns
such as the USDA Food Guide and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
(DASH) Eating Plan (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf).
Additionally, they emphasize keeping food safe, with steps to avoid
microbial foodborne illness. (See chart at end of article.)
The nine inter-related sections of the 2005 dietary guidelines offer 23 mutually dependent key recommendations in place of the 10 more general guidelines presented in the 2000 directives. This year’s document also provides additional advice for specific population groups such as pregnant and breastfeeding women, overweight individuals, children and adolescents, and older adults. All recommendations incorporate current scientific knowledge and findings, since an important component of the 2005 guidelines is a comprehensive report on new scientific information developed by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/report/).
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 also differ from their predecessor in that the official guidelines publication is targeted to policymakers, healthcare providers, nutritionists and nutrition educators rather than to the general public. A separate consumer publication called Finding Your Way to a Healthier You: Based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides practical advice in non-technical language (http://www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines).
Implementing Dietary Guidance
Because of their focus on health promotion and risk reduction, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans affect government nutrition programs, including those focused on research, education, school lunch, food assistance, labeling and nutrition information. The guidelines also serve as a policy document from which consistent government programs, policies and messages in education related to nutrition and health are developed. An interagency working group reviews all public nutrition education materials developed by federal agencies to ensure that the information is in harmony with the guidelines.
USDA uses the dietary guidelines for policy development in food assistance initiatives such as the Child Nutrition Programs, which include school lunch, and the Elderly Nutrition Program. The agency also uses the guidelines as the basis for the development of its food guidance system and related educational tools such as the new food guide pyramid, www.MyPyramid.gov, a Web site offering individualized advice on the types and amounts of foods that Americans should eat for good health, based on their needs.
As the Food and Drug Administration reviews future regulations to improve the appearance and content of nutrition labels to help consumers make better-informed decisions, it too will consider the information outlined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Partnerships and Action
As the government develops educational materials and communicates science-based information to Americans, it relies on traditional partnerships with extension nutritionists and public health educators, as well as new partnerships with other health professionals and the private sector. Such cooperation is essential to increase the level of resources devoted to consistent, multichannel strategies to promote the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Guidance System in order to better influence eating and physical activity behaviors.
Meanwhile, as scientific research provides clear evidence of the relationships between dietary components and health benefits, the challenge for the food industry becomes even greater. New product development can address consumer needs for healthier diets and promote behavior change in how and what Americans eat, helping to keep chronic diseases at bay. One such example involves a large Midwest-based company that strategically shifted one of its product categories to incorporate whole grains, a food component that the dietary guidelines encourage Americans to include daily in their diets. This change alone is estimated to increase whole grain servings by 26 million per day. Another example is an East Coast-based convenient-food company that eliminated trans fatty acids from its snack product line, prompting the removal of an estimated 55 million pounds of trans fatty acids from the food supply. Such changes in the marketplace can provide consumers with more healthful choices and arm them with the tools necessary to implement the guidelines.
Developing actionable and attainable behavior-change messages is another important aspect to impacting the health of Americans. As mentioned above, this year, USDA and HHS published Finding Your Way to a Healthier You, a consumer brochure that accompanies the guidelines policy document, with tested messages for consumers to follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.
Food industry and health professionals can also help consumers translate the guidelines into practical, easy-to-understand messages for eating well and staying healthy. To this end, the USDA is supporting HHS efforts to develop educational materials, such as a toolkit for health professionals, and to provide nutritionists and dietitians with resources, including PowerPoint slide presentations that can be used for teaching consumers how to incorporate the dietary guidelines into their everyday lives. Meanwhile, www.MyPyramid.gov translates science into individualized information that the consumer can use directly and immediately to put the guidelines into action, thus helping to move the guidelines’ health-promoting suggestions from the sidelines to the front lines.
Comparison of 2000 Dietary Guidelines with 2005 Dietary Guidelines
9 Focus Areas*
Key recommendations for the general public**
|Aim for a healthy weight
||• To maintain healthy body weight, balance calories consumed with calories expended.
• To prevent gradual weight gain, make small decreases in food and beverage calories, and increase physical activity.
|Be physically active each day
||• Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities, while monitoring caloric intake if reducing body weight or preventing weight gain. Participate in at least 30 minutes and as much as 90 minutes, of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity most days of the week depending on health needs and goals.
|Let the Pyramid guide your food choices
||Adequate nutrients within calorie needs
||• Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages while limiting the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars and alcohol.
• Meet recommended intakes within energy needs by adopting a balanced eating pattern, such as the USDA Food Guide or the DASH eating plan.
|Choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains
||Food groups to encourage
||• Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs.
• Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, selecting from all five vegetable subgroups several times a week
• Consume three or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half the grains should come from whole grains.
• Consume three cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk, or equivalent milk products.
|Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily
|Keep food safe to eat
||• Clean hands, food contact surfaces, and fruits and vegetables. Meat and poultry should not be washed or rinsed.
• Separate raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, or storing.
• Cook foods to a safe temperature to kill microorganisms.
• Chill (refrigerate) perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly.
• Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk or milk products, raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs, raw or undercooked meat and poultry, unpasteurized juices and raw sprouts.
|Choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat
||• Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids and less than 300 mg of cholesterol, and keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible.
• Keep total fat intake between 20 to 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
• Select lean, low-fat or fat-free meat, poultry, dry beans, and milk or milk products.
• Limit intake of fats and oils high in saturated and/or trans fatty acids.
|Choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars
||• Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains often.
• Choose/prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners.
• Practice good oral hygiene and consume sugar- and starch-containing foods and beverages less frequently to reduce the incidence of dental problems.
|Choose and prepare foods with less salt
||Sodium and Potassium
||• Consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt) of sodium per day.
• Choose/prepare foods with little salt, and consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
|If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation
||• Those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation - up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
• Individuals who cannot restrict their alcohol intake, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescents, individuals taking medications that can interact with alcohol, and those with specific medical conditions should not consume alcoholic beverages.
• Individuals engaging in activities that require attention, skill or coordination, such as driving or operating machinery, should avoid alcoholic beverages.
|*Focus areas have been reorganized to show their relationship to the 2000 Dietary Guidelines.
**Additional key recommendations for specific population groups are included in the 2005 guidelines, but are not presented here.
To learn more about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, visit www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines. [back to front page....]