Recently The American Heart Association praised new recommendations that were issued for the next update of the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans; the report released by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will inform the Departments of Health Human Services and Agriculture as they create the new guidelines which are expected to be released this year.
Written by a panel of nutritional experts the advisory committee’s report stresses the importance of a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, low or nonfat dairy, nuts, seafood, unsaturated vegetable oils, and low consumption of red and processed meats as well as sugar sweetened food/beverages and refined grains. The new recommendations align with the diet that was recommended in last year’s Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.
“A healthy diet is one of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular disease and improve overall health, and this report reinforces the need for everyone in America to practice healthy eating habits,” said Mitchell S. V. Elkind, M.D., MS, FAHA, FAAN, president of the American Heart Association. “The advisory committee recommends that Americans consume even fewer added sugars than it did five years ago—a significant change. This update, paired with other recommendations in the committee’s report, will help steer the public toward a more heart-healthy path in their daily diets.“
The 2015 recommendations are that less than 10% of total calories come from added sugars, the new recommendation lowers this amount to less than 6%; many American adults and children have little room for empty calories and need to go lower than 10% to have a healthy dietary pattern that meets their essential nutrient requirements.
The new report also provides recommendations for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding as well as infants and toddlers up to 24 months of age for the first time; these valuable additions to the recommendations helps to ensure that the Dietary Guidelines will now cover the full lifespan of Americans.
The report highlights that nutritional needs vary by stage in life and that eating habits during each stage can influence future food choices as well as affect the health and wellness of a person later in life.
“We commend the committee for its work to provide a strong, science-based foundation for the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and we encourage USDA and HHS to adopt the recommendations. We will strongly oppose any efforts to weaken these recommendations,” said Dr. Elkind. “It is important to recognize that these recommendations are just a first step. We need policy and environmental changes to ensure consumers can easily access healthier food. This requires collaboration among the food industry, government agencies, health organizations and consumers nationwide.”
The new report maintains current limits on saturated fats and encourages to replace them with that of unsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated fats, which is a recommendation that is also supported by the American Heart Association.
Studies indicate that lower intake of saturated fats and a higher intake of unsaturated fats such as polyunsaturated fat is associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, reducing the intake of saturated fats is likely to lower the intake of dietary cholesterol since it is commonly found in foods high in saturated fats.
The American Heart Association is also interested in sodium intake. While this was not commented on by the committee in this report due to the recent review by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Heart Association encourages the USDA and HHS to continue to emphasize the need to reduce sodium intake in the Dietary Guideline and incorporate the new dietary reference intake.
The AHA suggests that reducing excessive sodium intake is critical to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease; and up to 70% of excessive sodium intake can come from processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods.