Over 500 pages of the latest and greatest nutrition research was plated up in the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Report, released this past week. Created by a 15 member committee composed of our countries most respected dietitians, physicians and researchers, these proposed guidelines and public policy are designed to positively impact:
- Overweight, obesity and other diet related chronic disease. It is estimated that 50% of us have preventable chronic disease such as cardiovascular, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and diet-related cancers in addition compromised bone health that can be traced to poor diet quality and lack of exercise. The report also calls out the fact that two-thirds of us are overweight or obese along with one-third of our children increasing their risk for poor health and chronic diseases.
- Food insecurity a condition where healthy food is either limited or uncertain. 49 million people in the United States of which 18 percent are children live in food insecure households.
Both of these problems are more prevalent in low-income and underserved communities. Both strain our healthcare system by causing us to focus costly resources on treatment and our personal livelihood and economy related to a health impaired nation are negatively impacted.
Here are a few highlights from the Advisory Committee Report on how we should shift our focus from treatment to prevention and developing a “culture of health”:
Recommendation: 3 dietary patterns are promoted: The Healthy United States, The Mediterranean and Vegetarian Diets. Each of these shares a pattern of higher fruit, vegetable, whole grains, low or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate alcohol; lower red and processed meat (bacon, sausage, salami); and lower in sugar sweetened foods, drinks and processed grains. They also highlight that a diet richer in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes will pay it forward by reducing the negative environmental impact (green house gas emissions; land, water and energy use) associated with the current eating habits of the average American.
Interpretation: pizza, mac-n-cheese, tacos, burgers, fries, grilled sandwiches, chips, Oreo cookies, ice cream and Coca Cola become once in a while foods instead of lunch and dinner mainstays.
Recommendation: Moderate caffeine consumption, defined as 3-5 cups or up to 400 mg/d caffeine) may reduce one’s risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Interpretation: These health benefits will be diminished by adding excessive amounts of cream, sugar and syrup. The advisory committee also discourages consuming highly caffeinated energy drinks and mixing said liquids with alcohol.
Recommendation: The existing cholesterol limits of 300 mg/day, the equivalent of two servings of eggs should be eliminated due to the lack of evidence that it impacts blood cholesterol levels or leads to heart disease.
Interpretation: Eggs, lobster, shrimp and liver (if you are so inclined) are back on the menu!
Recommendation: Limiting sodium to <2300 milligrams per day for adults and saturated fat to <10% of total calories remains unchanged. The Advisory Committee calls out the fact that 30 percent of U.S. adults have high blood pressure and the lifetime risk is 90 percent.
Interpretation: Buy a good cookbook and learn how to cook from scratch using spices and herbs instead of salt to flavor foods. Toss ground turkey and salmon in your cart as staples but hold the bacon, sausage and brats for once in a while.
Recommendation: Limit sugar to 10 percent of total calories from added sugar per day. We currently average 268 calories or 13.4 percent.
Interpretation: Since one packet of M&M’s is 230 calories and one Coca Cola is 240 calories, you will either need to enjoy your M&M’s with water or enjoy your Coca Cola with an apple. What you shouldn’t do is enjoy your M&M’s with your Coca Cola!
What are the Next Steps?
- The public has 45 days, or until April 8, 2015 to speak up and submit comments.
- The United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services will jointly determine how to use the heavily researched information in the Advisory Report along with your input to develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- The Federal government will release the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans later this year. These Guidelines become the basis for nutrition policy until 2020 in the United States. This includes everything from consumer education materials created by the United States Department of Agriculture, what’s listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel in your local grocery store to federally funded nutrition programs like SNAP, WIC and the School Lunch program.
Until then, add a fruit and vegetable to your daily routine, drink more water and take a seat at the family dinner table rather than the drive through window.