Nutrition Experts Urge Clearer Diet Advice from Government


Language on Fats and Carbs Called Vague and Meaningless

September 21, 2004

More than 25 nutrition experts today urged the federal government to revise key nutrition messages proposed in the recent report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). While praising the strong scientific basis of the committee’s report, the nutrition experts said several messages, particularly those advising Americans to choose fats and carbohydrates “wisely for good health,” were so vague as to be meaningless. In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, the experts said that the government should make those messages more specific and understandable.

“The scientific fine print in the advisory committee’s report makes it clear that Americans should be eating much less saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and added sugars,” said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and one of the signatories of the letter. “But the committee’s proposed take-home messages don’t provide clear-cut advice on improving diets. It’s not enough to just say ‘choose wisely’ when we know we’re eating too much of some foods, and not enough of others.”

HHS and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) will use the committee’s report as the basis for the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Present guidelines advise Americans to “choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat,” and to “choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars.”

The nutrition experts say that better advice on fats would be to “choose a diet that is low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and moderate in total fat.” Better still, they said, would be advice focused on foods rather than nutrients, such as “eat less cheese, beef, pork, whole and 2% milk, egg yolks, pastries, and other foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, or cholesterol.”

Other signatories to the letter include Marion Nestle from New York University, John La Rosa from SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Thomas N. Richardson from Stanford University School of Medicine, David Katz from Yale University School of Medicine, and Carlos A. Camargo of Harvard Medical School and a member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

 

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