Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines For Americans - What's New?

We all know we should move more and eat less – especially when it comes to processed foods loaded with salt, sugar, and saturated fat – but now the updated 2010 USDA dietary guidelines released January 31st provide government support to help Americans eat more nutritiously.

The new plan focuses on four core topics urging Americans towards healthier habits. These include:

1. Increasing fruit, vegetable, and seafood intake.
2. Decreasing consumption of foods high in added fats and sugars.
3. Aiming for 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
4. Balancing calories consumed with calories burned.

These guidelines were compiled using data from numerous scientific studies and decades of accrued research. Despite the fact that the report has been updated every five years since first published in 1980, American waistlines have expanded at a tremendous rate. Today, over two thirds of American adults and a third of American children are overweight or obese. The U.S. suffers from unrelenting rates of heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, along with the rising health care costs associated with these chronic diseases.

So, are these guidelines enough? The report is meant to improve the quality of American eating habits by driving consumers away from fattening, unhealthy options, but in years past it has offered little concrete advice. Perhaps the most encouraging thing about the 2010 dietary guidelines is the clarity of the content. Previously, Americans had been urged to simply “increase fruit and vegetable intake” or “decrease consumption of sugary beverages”. Now, however, we are provided with visual support as well - for example, “make half your plate fruits and vegetables” and “drink water instead of sugary drinks”. This makes the overall message of the guidelines less vague, while simultaneously offering strategies for Americans to cut back on unhealthy habits and opt for healthier alternatives.

It’s doubtful that these revisions will bring about any real change overnight, but they represent one more step towards curbing obesity in America. For now, the effect of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans remains to be seen.

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