As the decades march on, the body of scientific evidence grows. A good diet and physical activity are the cornerstones of health and disease prevention.
Americans are living large both figuratively and literally with most people preferring there 60 inch flat screen and a nice comfy couch to what science says is good for us.
According to the article “Recipe for Wellness” Cheryl Anderson, a member of the national 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and other nutrition research specialists spent more than 18 months reviewing what is known about diet related disease prevention. In no uncertain terms, the committee, which meets every five years with the Federal government regarding nutrition policy and food assistance programs, called “for bold action and sound innovative solutions” to address the nation’s health problem.
The statistics are plain. Approximately 50% of all American adults—117 million people—have one or more preventable, chronic diseases related to poor nutritional habits and physical inactivity. The list includes heart disease, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and breast cancer.
More than two thirds of adults and nearly one third of children and adolescents are clinically overweight or obese.
The committee in its scientific report stated, “These devastating health problems have persisted for decades, strained U.S. health care costs and focused the attention of our health care system on disease treatment rather than prevention. Unfortunately, few improvements in consumers’ food choices have occurred in recent decades.”
So what is healthful nutrition that prevents diet related maladies? The research team found vegetables and fruits are a consistent part of the healthful dietary pattern. Vegetables and fruits were “consistently identified in every conclusion statement across health outcomes” as having strong signs for promoting health.” Less corroboration was also shown for nutritional patterns that include whole grains, low or nonfat dairy, seafood, beans and nuts.
More than any one diet, the committee stressed the ‘critical importance’ on an individual’s general eating tendencies and habits.
Anderson stated, “Our take-away message is that people need to shift their dietary patterns, control the size of food portions and decrease overall caloric intake. We want to move away from the idea that people should reduce intake of certain isolated foods and instead emphasize the idea of replacing some foods with more healthful options like fruits and vegetables.”
The committee of experts felt the media frequently alter or confuse the committee’s main message.
Anderson, an expert on nutrition and chronic disease prevention, stated, “The media often give the impression that nutritionists are saying ‘this food is good for you one week’ and then ‘that food is bad for you the next.’ It creates the impression that nutritional advice is always changing and that there is not a scientific consensus on what good nutrition is. That is not true.”
An example of this was the media brouhaha over the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s decision not to put specific limits on dietary cholesterol, creating headlines such as “Cholesterol is back on the menu in new federal dietary guidelines” or “Cholesterol in food not a concern, new report says.”
Anderson, a member of UC San Diego’s Cardiovascular Epidemiology and Prevention Center of Excellence and a fellow of the American Heart Association, stated, “We did not set a recommended guideline on daily dietary cholesterol levels, as has been done in previous guidelines, because dietary cholesterol does not have an appreciable impact on serum cholesterol. Further, there was no evidence that cholesterol is a nutrient of concern for over or under consumption by the population. There is, however, scientific evidence showing that saturated fats do impact a person’s cardiovascular health. Our recommendation is that Americans get no more than 10 percent of their daily calories from saturated fat. That is not a green light to eat as many eggs as you want.”
“The lack of specific guidance on cholesterol was a subtle decision that recognizes a few nuanced foods, such as shrimp and shellfish, that are high in cholesterol but low in saturated fat, and can be part of a healthful diet,” Anderson explained. “To see the media focus on cholesterol in isolation of the report in its entirety was disheartening and was in direct contradiction to what the report focused on.”
In addition, the panel acknowledged for the first time the larger socioeconomic and sociocultural indicators that influence a person’s ability to eat well and exercise.
“Where a person lives, works, plays, and prays can facilitate or hinder a person’s ability to make healthy lifestyle choices,” Anderson said. “For example, we know there are ‘food deserts’ in America where people don’t have easy access to grocery stores.”
The committee noted that greater than 49 million people, including nearly 9 million children, living in food troubled households.
“She and the other committee members have urged the federal government to develop policies that foster a culture of health. These, Anderson said, might include making population health a national priority; ensuring resources for healthy lifestyles are accessible, affordable and normative for everyone; shifting health care and public health systems toward a greater emphasis on prevention; and enacting incentives to encourage environmental and policy changes, as well as better food and beverage standards and products.”
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Johnson, C. (2015, May 14). Recipe for Wellness UC San Diego nutrition expert helps define national prescription for healthy diet. Retrieved May 15, 2015, from UC San Diego News Center: http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/feature/recipe_for_wellness
Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. (2015, February). Retrieved from health.gov: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/
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