The US government has released its new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), which are issued every five years by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). They are based on the latest science. The 2015-2020 guidelines emphasise the importance of a balanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, poultry, seafood, legumes, whole grains, nuts and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
The guidelines suggest limiting the intake of added sugars to less than 10% of daily calories (about 12 teaspoons). Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages or consumed on their own including honey, fructose, sucrose, raw sugar, malt syrup, molasses etc.. Naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk and fruits are not considered to be added sugars. The guidelines also state that a further reduction to below 5% of total energy (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits. The average American is currently getting 13-17% of his/her total daily calories from added sugar (about 23 teaspoons)1.
According to most recent findings, authorities globally agree that consumption of low-calorie sweeteners (e.g. aspartame and saccharine) are of no safety concerns. Moreover, the guidelines state that low-calorie sweeteners may help people to lose weight in the short term, but there is little evidence on the long-term effects on weight loss and maintenance.
The advice on saturated fat intake remains the same as it was in 2010 and suggests limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total daily calories in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, it is very important to mention that people should be aware of the types of fats they eat. For example, studies have shown that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
The 2010 guidelines suggested limiting cholesterol from foods to no more than 300 milligrams/day (approximately 2 eggs). According to the latest findings, “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption” and such cholesterol limiting recommendations are not present in the most recent release of guidelines because it is no longer considered a risk factor for heart disease.
Lean, red and processed meat
The recommendation on meat and poultry consumption has not changed since the guidelines from 2010: 26 ounce-equivalents per week including processed and red meats. The guidelines also conclude that men and teenage boys should decrease intakes of meats, poultry and eggs and increase amounts of vegetables. According to the guidelines, Americans should limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg/day (one teaspoon). Furthermore, adults who need to lower their blood pressure should consume less than 1,500 mg/day.
Coffee & caffeine
The new guidelines mention coffee for the first time and the recommendations are good news for coffee drinkers! They indicated that 400 mg of caffeine per day (4 x 8 oz cups of coffee) is not associated with adverse health effects and that coffee consumption may in fact impart positive health effects.
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1. Johnson, R. K., Appel, L. J., Brands,M., Howard, B. V., Lefevre, M., Lustig, R. H., Sacks, F., Steffen, L. M. and Wylie- Rosett, J. (2009) Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health. A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association . Circulation, 120:1011-20
Written by Foteini Bompola on March 3 2016
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