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Panel Recommends Healthy Living Changes

Independent advisors to the government, in a report released September 5, 2002, issued new guidelines for health. General ranges for food intake of fat, protein and carbohydrate were given instead of strict amounts. The Institute of Medicine Committee reommended that trans-fatty acids be listed on food product labels so that people can reduce their intake. Trans-fatty acids are currently only listed in ingredients sections, guised as "hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils". The Nurses Health Study analyzing the food intake of 86,000 nurses over a 20-year period found that trans-fatty acids may contribute to heart disease even more than saturated fats.

The new guidelines for nutrition are as follows:

The panel urged avoiding added sugars, such as in soft drinks.

For dietary fiber, the panel recommends the following:

The health advisory panel urged eating at least 130 grams of carbohydrates daily to ensure that the brain has enough glucose to function properly. Further, they emphasized the importance to distinguish between diets to lose weight and diets to maintain health. Weight loss diets are temporary and provide less energy intake than needed.

“Our report focuses on diet for the long term to maintain health”, said Dr. Benjamin Caballero, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “For obese people, diet is not enough, they must also increase their activity level”, he said.

Joanne Lupton of Texas A&M University, head of the Institute of Medicine committee that prepared the study, noted that studies have shown that when people eat very low levels of carbohydrates (i.e. the Atkins diet), their good cholesterol declines. Good cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein, can reduce the likelihood of heart attack. The study noted that fat is a major source of energy but urged avoiding saturated fat and trans fatty acid because of increase risk of heart disease. The main sources of saturated fats are meat and full-fat dairy products. Trans fatty acids are found in cookies, crackers, baked goods and peanut butter (unless purchasing natural peanut butter).

For the first time, the institute added exercise as a recommendation to its dietary advice. “To reduce some of the main killers of America we will have to increase the level of physical activity,” said Dr. Caballero. The committee recommended at least one hour of moderate physical activity daily, such as walking, slow swimming, leisurely bicycle riding or golfing without a cart. That's twice the latest government guidance, recommended by the surgeon general in 1996. The exercise could be broken up and spread throughout the day. Youngsters were also advised to exercise an hour daily.

This report comes on the heels of another report from the former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, MD reporting in February 2002 on the alarming increase in overweight and obese children and adults. “Overweight and obesity have doubled in children since 1980 and tripled in adolescents,” he said. “The fact that many schools no longer require physical education is a major concern”. He offered several tactics for combating the problem as a nation. He spoke of moving toward a standard for physical education in public schools, removing machines that vend caloric snacks from the schools and promoting healthy lifestyles through the media. According to Dr. Satcher, 61% of American adults are now overweight or obese and there has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of overweight and obese Americans very recently, due to lifestyle changes. “The whole culture is militated against physical activity.”

At a recent nursing symposium on diabetes, WHF president Bonnie Arkus reported that industry people are alarmed about the increase number of obese children and the occurence of Type II diabetes (non-insulin dependent) in adolescents. Some dubb this “Nintendo Disease”. “Children come home from school and sit and do their homework or play computer games until mom or dad comes home from work. We have a nation of latch-key children who are “being good” but who are not getting any exercise.”

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