New USDA Nutrition Guidelines Focus on Unhealthy Population

"No one made it down to only the 2005 recommended max of 2,300 mg of sodium daily," said Keith Ayoob of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "If people have trouble reaching [that] mark, then 1,500 mg will be even tougher."

Connie Diekman of Washington University in St. Louis said that most Americans eat 3,000 to 8,000 mg of sodium per day: "Why not develop better ways to get them to 2,300 and then see how that impacts the incidence of hypertension?"

Ayoob added that the earlier recommendations "allow people a condiment here and there, and even a bowl of soup, especially if it's a reduced sodium one. That would be more realistic for consumers, and it would still require some changes to how people eat."

Van Horn said meeting the goals will also require the cooperation of policy makers and the food industry.

Adjusting the American Diet

The idea is to provide incentives to offer healthier products, she said. Ideally, companies should take "key products and gradually but deliberately reduce [for example] the sodium contents of those foods."

"As the American palate gradually adjusts," she said, "those food products can remain front and center in the American diet but not contribute the excessive amounts of sugar, fats, and salt.

Diekman said the key will be "helping consumers change their taste palate so that the shift in food choices is achievable."

The guidelines also recommend against a daily multivitamin and encourage moderate alcohol intake, at no more than a drink a day for women and two for men.

They also address food safety issues, outlinine four key steps to prevent foodborne illness: "clean, separate, cook, and chill."

In a prepared statement, Margo G. Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, applauded the committee for recognizing that "what is most needed is an unprecedented effort to help people follow the Dietary Guidelines, including changes in policy and the food environment."

"The report wisely recommends that USDA and HHS develop a national strategy to help people eat better, including ramping up nutrition education, expanding access to fruits and vegetables, and getting industry to provide more-healthful products."

National dietary guidelines were first published in 1980 and are reviewed every five years. They new set of guidelines is open for public comment until July 15.

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