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Posts Tagged ‘dietary guidelines’

If we look back on eating patterns during the past five years, we recognize several changes in our food choices and lifestyles. Until Covid-19 came along, we ate out more and adapted to more cultural and ethnic varieties of dishes. Even prior to the pandemic, we witnessed changes in health issues related to food consumption. Research continues to confirm the relationship between health and mortality. People who consume diets with fewer animal products have lower mortality risks. Seafood is a healthy protein choice as are the plant sources of whole grains and legumes.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, tasked with updating the guidelines, found strong evidence of reduced risks of all-cause mortality (all deaths that occur in a population) when individuals consumed a dietary pattern higher in vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, lean meats and seafood, appropriate dairy foods, and unsaturated vegetable oils and consumed fewer red and processed meats, saturated fatty acids and cholesterol, and beverages and foods with added sugar.

All you need for the Summer 2020 Healthy Diet Plan - BBC Good Food

Many consumers have come to believe plant-based diets are healthier, and that is true when compared to diets higher in food components that increase mortality rates. Sales of plant-based foods increased 11.4 percent in 2019. Plant-based meat sales increased 18 percent, and 45 percent of consumers felt plant-based meat was healthier than that coming from an animal. For the first half of 2020, the sale of plant-based meat increased 148 percent compared to 2019.

The meat industry has countered by pointing out the extensive processing and addition of ingredients, such as salt, may make plant-based meats less healthy.

Guidelines for added sugar have also changed. Whereas the 2015-2020 guidelines suggested consuming no more than 10 percent of all calories from added sugars, the new guidelines lower that recommendation to no more than 6 percent. Some studies indicate that consumers prefer to cut back on consumption of added sugars rather than switch to other sweeteners.

Alcohol has little health value, and the committee notes that drinking less results in better long-term health. Millennials tend to lead the way with changes in consumption. With a decline in beer volume sales, bottled low- and no-alcohol beverages in the US are projected to increase by 32 percent by 2022. Breweries have latched on to this trend of producing nonalcoholic beverages.

Health, Disease, Stethoscope, Heart, Frequency, Rhythm

Health Impact

With the many modifications and projected changes, what are the anticipated effects on health? Chronic health conditions are more prevalent among the older population, certain racial and ethnic groups, and those with lower income levels.

Statistics for overweight and obesity continue to climb in all stages of life. On average, 42 percent of adults are obese with slightly higher levels for men than women. Independently, obesity can result in several serious health issues. Directly or indirectly, it increases the risks of obesity-related complications such as coronary heart disease, end-stage renal disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic disease, some types of cancer, and other conditions. More recent research finds that obesity impacts our immune system, thus putting the obese at greater risks of infections such as influenza and Covid-19. For influenza, obesity makes adult vaccinations more difficult and possibly less effective.

The overall highest incidence of cancer is female breast cancer followed by prostate cancer. Lung and bronchus cancer cause the highest mortality rate of any cancer. For those who drink alcohol, smaller amounts result in a lower risk of this disease and all-cause mortality compared to those who consume higher amounts. Dietary patterns recommended by the committee were generally associated with decreased risks of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.

Based on reports of wellness and diet, we as a nation do not fare well. With so much evidence to support the ill-effects of unwise diet patterns, why do we continue to make risky choices? While the dietary guidelines provide suggestions based on scientific evidence, the choice is ours. Do we want good health, or do we prefer to choose a pattern of unhealthy eating? If the latter, then whether or not intended, we place the burden of escalating healthcare costs on others as well as ourselves.  

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Throughout the 20th Century, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published varied guidelines to help Americans eat healthier. Prior to the discovery of individual vitamins, Wilbur Atwater in the 1890s compiled the first nutrition bulletin. He advocated variety, portion control, calorie maintenance, and affordable diets that emphasized nutrient-rich diets with limited fat, sugar, and starch. The 1940s ushered in the “Basic 7” food groups which were replaced in 1956 with the “Basic Four.” The USDA introduced the “Food Guide Pyramid”  in 1992.

Amplified dietary guidelines appeared in 1980 and is updated  every five years for the general public. The USDA and Health and Human Services now conjointly establish dietary guidelines. Each new edition, compiled by a panel of experts in the fields of medicine and nutrition, builds on the previous guidelines and incorporates the latest information from scientific research.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released on January 7, 2016. Many recommendations remained the same as previous publications while others were diminished or expanded. New information also surfaced. These are the first guidelines to acknowledge the widespread use of caffeine, a non-nutrient, and suggest upper limits for its use. Information incorporated into the new guidelines seemed more contentious than in previous years. Questions surfaced regarding political influence while opposing factions sometimes appeared to have self-serving motives.

These documents are public domain. The complete report can be accessed at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Identified below are the five categories recommended in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
  1. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.

What purpose do these guidelines serve? Here are a few considerations.

  • With nearly 70 percent of our nation overweight or obese, these guidelines can help people achieve a more reasonable weight for better health.
  • Several illnesses and diseases result from environmental causes. Many of those could be abated or eliminated with appropriate diets.
  • Foods at the check-out easily persuade us to buy foods we don’t need or really want because of visual temptations. Aldi grocery stores declared support of a healthier food supply by replacing candies and less nutritious foods at the check-lanes with nuts, dried fruits and granola bars.

The above is not intended as a complete list. Dietary guidelines serve many purposes in giving directions for the public to remain healthy and extend longevity. Whatever flaws may exist in each new addition, these suggestions can help us maintain optimum health and well-being. The wise consumer will not ignore them.

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