MONDAY, Jan. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Long-awaited U.S. dietary
guidelines released Monday -- the first since 2005 -- focus on
getting Americans to slash their salt intake.
Specifically, the seventh edition of the U.S. Department of
Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that Americans
limit their daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams
(about a teaspoon) a day for most people and to less than 1,500
milligrams among people aged 51 or older, all blacks, and people
who have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease,
regardless of their age.
Given the current obesity epidemic and its attendant chronic
health problems, this lower limit ends up applying to about half of
the U.S. population, the guidelines stated.
"The focus is still on salt," said Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern at Dallas and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "We know that most Americans are eating two times or more of what's recommended which is 2,300 milligrams a day for most people. We still need to reduce our daily intake."
U.S. health officials agreed.
"Today the average American probably consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium, so this is a fairly significant effort on our part and it must be reflected in the decisions that food-processing companies, in particular, make over time so folk don't necessarily reject out of hand these guidelines because the taste is so fundamentally different," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said during a Monday news conference.
The guidance should help Americans as they navigate product
labeling outlining the sodium content of various foods, he
Not everyone thought the USDA went far enough, however. In a
statement, the American Heart Association said that by applying the
1,500 milligram per day intake level only to people aged 51 and
over, the guidelines fail to address "the very real issue of excess
sodium consumption across the population." Instead, the AHA
believes that "the 1,500 mg recommendation should apply to all
Americans -- children and adults."
The 2010 advisory also puts "more emphasis on getting people to
choose healthier types of fats," Sandon noted.
The new guidelines are "tools to give Americans better
information about how to stay healthy, how to become healthier, how
to make children better students and be prosperous in the future,"
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human
Services, said during the news conference.
This time around, there are highly specific recommendations on
fats: That no more than 10 percent of calories should come from
saturated fat and, in their place, eating monounsaturated fats and
polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Americans are also being urged to eat more seafood, particularly
cold water fish, "in an attempt to up consumption of healthier fats
like omega-3 fats that we know are health-promoting," said
That was not specifically stated in past versions of the
In a way, the messages contained in this new document aren't
much different than what experts have been trying to drive home for
These include eating smaller portions, reducing calorie
consumption and increasing physical activity.
Specifically, the guidelines suggest:
- Making half your plate fruits and vegetables and eating more
whole grains to get more of needed nutrients.
- Eating more lean meats and poultry, legumes and nuts and
- Using fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk.
- Staying away from added sugars, refined grains and solid fats,
which tend to have many calories but few essential nutrients.
- Making sodium comparisons for foods such as canned soup and
frozen meals, then select those foods with the least salt.
- Consuming less than 300 milligrams per day of cholesterol.
- Avoiding trans fatty acids.
- Gleaning nutrients primarily from eating nutritious food,
instead of relying on supplements.
- Consuming alcohol only in moderation, meaning one drink or less
for women per day and two drinks for men.
- Drinking water instead of sugary sodas or other sweetened
The guidelines follow closely on the heels of proposed new
federal guidelines for making school lunches healthier. Those
proposals, issued earlier this month, are similar, including having
kids incorporate more grains and vegetables into school meals and
switching to low- or nonfat milk.
"This is very much what many health professionals have been saying for years. There's nothing particularly earth-shattering here," Sandon said. "But these guidelines are evidence-based, they're based on science and what we know about healthy eating, what we know about weight loss and how nutrients promote our health but tend to get lost among all the hypes of the fad diets out there. If [only] we could make this the next fad diet -- we need to get this to stand out in the public's mind above all the hundreds of books that are making promises of quick fixes. This is as close as we can get to the truth about healthy eating."
Find out more about the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans at
U.S. Department of Agriculture.