New USDA Nutrition Guidelines Focus on Unhealthy Population

The new guidelines, focused on salt and fat, are aimed at an obese population.

ByABC News
June 15, 2010, 5:48 PM

June 15, 2010— -- The latest set of national dietary guidelines acknowledges that many Americans are unhealthy and emphasizes efforts to battle the obesity epidemic.

In addition to lower sodium and saturated and trans fat goals, the recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services also call for policymakers and the food industry to become engaged in the fight.

"The most important issue is that this set of guidelines is addressing an unhealthy American public for the first time," said Linda Van Horn of Northwestern University, chair of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. "The obesity epidemic is priority number one, and every single thing in this report is focused on addressing that problem up front."

Yet in terms of intake recommendations, there are not many changes from the last guidelines update in 2005.

The changes in fat consumption are among the biggest new recommendations. The new guidance urges that saturated fat intake be cut from 10 percent of total daily energy consumption to just 7 percent, with more emphasis on calories from the more healthful mono- and poly-unsaturated fats.

And the transfat intake recommendation has been cut in half -- from 1 percent to 0.5 percent, with the idea being to eat as few of these fatty acids as possible, Van Horn told MedPage Today in an interview.

Another key change is in the sodium intake recommendation. The 2005 guidelines put it at 2,300 mg per day for the general population. However, since 70 percent of Americans have diabetes, heart disease, obesity, or some other risk factor, the new recommended daily allowance is 1,500 mg. That was the number set in the old guidelines only for the high-risk group.

The advisory also encourages increased potassium intake, since this element helps cut the effects of sodium on blood pressure.

Still, there are no new recommendations in terms of cholesterol consumption, which stands at 300 mg per day for healthy adults, and less than 200 mg daily for high-risk individuals.