US food guidelines should focus on fat, panel says

New U.S. nutritional guidelines should focus on keeping Americans from getting fatter than they already are, with an emphasis on whole grains, fruit and vegetables, advisers said on Tuesday.

With two-thirds of U.S. adults overweight or obese, the aim is to help people cut unnecessary calories while getting the right nutrients, Rear Admiral Penelope Slade-Sawyer of the Health and Human Services Department told reporters in a telephone briefing.

The report from more than a dozen expert members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will be released on Tuesday for a 30-day public comment period.

HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will then draw up new guidelines. Congress requires HHS and USDA to do so every five years.

The guidelines set standards for U.S. school breakfasts and lunches and other federal programs but are also aimed at the average consumer. The administration of President Barack Obama has launched an effort to fight childhood obesity with better eating and more exercise.

In 2005, the old food pyramid with grains on the bottom and oils at the top was replaced by the MyPyramid symbol with vertical stripes and a symbol for exercise.

This should be tweaked a bit, Slade-Sawyer said.

“This report is unprecedented in addressing the obesity epidemic ... and the obesity epidemic is the single biggest threat to public heath,” she said. This is especially true for children, among whom obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years.

“They also explicitly addressed the importance of eating behavior,” Slade-Sawyer said. “Such topics as eating breakfast, snacking, portion size and eating fast foods were looked at.”

She said the guidelines, as recommended by the committee, would include a new chapter on the total diet.

The recommendations still emphasize moving toward a plant-based diet - with plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and only moderate amounts of lean meat, poultry and eggs. They also suggest decreasing sodium from the current level of less than 2,300 milligrams a day to less than 1,500.

Most Americans get far too much salt, which can raise blood pressure.

“The committee recognized that 35 percent of all calories consumed by Americans are solid fats and added sugars,” said Robert Post, deputy director of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.

The new guidelines will aim to help cut that.

“There is a call for reduced sodium,” Slade-Sawyer said. “There is a call for drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages. There is a call to decrease saturated fat from 10 percent to 7 percent of daily calories. It is sort of a graduated approach to decrease the caloric intake of the American public.”


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