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January 18, 2005 • Volume 2 / Number 3 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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HHS News

HHS/USDA Release Updated Dietary Guidelines

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On January 12, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) released updated dietary guidelines that give clear direction, based on scientific evidence, for how to eat right and exercise for better health.

"The timing for this could not be better," said HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, noting that January is the month for New Year's resolutions. "The guidelines offer Americans achievable goals for controlling weight, building stronger muscles and bones, and preventing chronic diseases." "They provide a blueprint for action, based on the latest and best science available," added USDA Secretary Ann Veneman.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are released every 5 years, as required by Federal law. They direct the practices of all government nutrition programs, including school breakfast and lunch programs; the Food Stamps program; the WIC nutrition program for women, infants, and children; and labeling practices. There are 41 recommendations in the new Guidelines, 23 for the general public and 18 for children, women who may become pregnant, and older adults.

The guideline development process began in 2003, when a panel of 13 scientists and physicians reviewed the literature on diet and health patterns; nearly a year later, they issued a report, which was then reviewed by government scientists and officials, and made available for public comment. The final guidelines were crafted from that initial report and feedback from these meetings.

Dr. Susan Krebs-Smith of NCI's Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS), who was a member of the committee that helped draft the final report, said that the new guidelines are an important advance over earlier editions. "Rather than condensing the information into a handful of simple statements, they have expanded the number of key recommendations and clarified points that were only hinted at previously," she said. "Instead of saying, 'Eat less' of something, these guidelines give specifics," adds Dr. Rachel Ballard-Barbash, of DCCPS, who provided input as part of the peer review of the Guidelines.

The new Guidelines contain elements with particular relevance for cancer control efforts, says Dr. Ballard-Barbash. "Because of the increasing rate of obesity in the United States, the guidelines have a strong focus on weight control and physical activity, providing specific guidance in these areas," she says, noting that research within the last few years has identified the benefit of being physically active and avoiding weight gain for cancer prevention.

As a supplement to the 80-page Guidelines document, a 12-page consumer brochure, Finding Your Way to a Healthier You, is also available. Both documents can be downloaded from the Web at http://www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines/; print copies can be ordered by phone after February 4 through the Government Printing Office toll free at 1-866-512-1800.