Press | Search | Contact Us | Login | Register | En Espanol

By: Elizabeth Rahavi, RD   Date: 2/2/11
On Monday the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Policy Report. These new federal guidelines, which are updated every five years, set the standard for federal nutrition policy in the U.S. and provide science-based guidance for health professionals who work with Americans every day in their quest to lose weight and improve their health through diet and exercise. This is no easy task, as the report points out poor diets and physical inactivity are associated with the major causes of death and chronic disease, placing a tremendous impact on the cost of health care in the U.S.

Unfortunately, this release came at a time when most Americans’ attention is focused on the Middle East. While we did see coverage of the new guidelines in major media outlets like the Washington PostLA Times, New York Times, and various nightly newscasts, it was largely eclipsed by other events around the world. This represents a missed opportunity to have national dialogue using the latest evidenced-based science about what it means to have an active, healthy lifestyle. 

What has changed from 2005 to 2010?
The science-based recommendations have not changed drastically from the previous iteration of the policy report. Americans are still being encouraged to:
• Consume more fruits and vegetables,
• Eat more whole grains,
• Drink fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products,
• Be mindful of protein choices (opting for lean whenever possible),
• Increase consumption of seafood,
• Use oils in lieu of solid fats
And do all of this while reducing consumption of foods and beverages that are high in saturated and trans fat, sugar and sodium.

The dietary guidelines have traditionally been recommended for healthy people ages two and older. However, with more than two-thirds of the population struggling with overweight and obesity, the new guidelines place a larger emphasis on managing calories to help manage weight. Two themes sum up the emphasis of the report:
1. Maintain calorie balance over time to achieve and sustain a healthy weight.  
2. Focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages.

Relaying the Message Using Consumer Terms
According to the New York Times article, Robert C. Post, deputy director of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion at the Agriculture Department, said regulators hoped simple messages [contained in the report] would resonate better than the more technical prose of the past. Ideally, the guidelines are to be used by health professionals and others who can translate the technical prose into consumer-friendly terms, but the new report recognizes the need for simple messages. Accordingly, one of the consumer messages from the new report is to, “Enjoy your food, but eat less.”

This new consumer-friendly language is a move in the right direction, but health professionals should not be concerned that they’ll be out of a job anytime soon. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that Americans learn how to make these simple recommendations a reality and to translate some of the more technical advice into consumer-friendly language. If there is one thing I’ve learned from conducting consumer research over the years, it is that even the simplest nutrition advice can fall short when it comes to the stress of day-to-day life. So communication is key, but helping consumers understand how to overcome obstacles and tap into the reasons why they eat what they eat is just as important.

Over the next few months we’ll be blogging more about the new dietary guidelines and developing resources that help put the new recommendations into perspective based on our wealth of consumer insights. To stay up to date with our insights, subscribe to the FoodInsight blog and sign up to get monthly updates that give you the 411 on new materials on

Do you feel that the new guidelines are drastically different from the previous iteration? What was your key takeaway?


6 comment(s) so far...

Re: New Dietary Guidelines Released by USDA and HHS

I believe that most people, including me, need to eat more fresh fruits, and vegetables. I believe that most people, including me, do not drink enough water every day.

By Janice Cheeseman on   Thursday, February 03, 2011

Re: New Dietary Guidelines Released by USDA and HHS

The new guidelines are pretty similar to the old. Sadly, both new and old versions seem to favor the interests of the industrial food system. It's estimated that Americans obtain about 70 percent of their calories from four food crops; wheat, sugar, corn, and soybeans. The fructose and omega-6 components of these commodities are responsible for most of the chronic inflammatory conditions that debilitate an and kill.Another problem is advice to restrict saturated fats, replacing them with omega-6 rich seed oils. Saturated fats have never been shown to clog arteries. Omega-6s have.Finally, low fat, calorie restricted weight loss diets tend to slow the metabolism and derange the appetite. This "starvation" approach may work for some. But most cannot sustain a weight loss on such a diet.

By David Brown on   Friday, February 04, 2011

Re: New Dietary Guidelines Released by USDA and HHS

Thanks, David. It is clear that you are very passionate about nutrition and the health of Americans. Like you, we would like to move Americans toward better health. You may be interested in reading these materials about how the modern food supply chain is able to bring us a variety of safe, high-quality foods every day that are also tasty, convenient, nutritious, fresh and affordable. As well as our referenced reviews on sugars:

and dietary fats:

The consensus science continues to support the Dietary Guidelines recommendation to consume a diet moderate in fat, and to reduce saturated fats to less than 10% of calories and increase unsaturated fats coming from healthy sources such as nuts, fish, olive, canola, and soybean oils.

By Elizabeth Rahavi on   Friday, February 04, 2011

Re: New Dietary Guidelines Released by USDA and HHS

Thanks, Elizabeth. I am in the process of reviewing the reviews on sugars and fats. Thus far, I'm impressed with the comprehensiveness and accuracy of these reviews, not to mention the quality of the writing.

If you don't mind, I would like to dialog for a bit on points of disagreement. I'm a stickler for facts and always appreciate it when people point out my mistakes. That said, I want to call attention to a mistake in the sugar review. The author(s) wrote, "Under normal circumstances, glucose is the only fuel utilized by the brain and the primary fuel used by working muscles."

Actually, fat is the major caloric source of energy for muscle tissue. Muscles burn both fat and glucose simultaneously all the time. According to Covert Bailey, author of "Fit or Fat," the muscles burn 60 to 70 percent fat calories while at rest and up to 80 percent fat calories during aerobic activity. The limiting factor for endurance exercise is the amount of glucose available stored as glycogen in muscle tissue and the liver. Over the long haul, endurance athletes must drink glucose solutions to keep the body from breaking down muscle and organ tissue to furnish glucose needed for muscle contractions.

Fat stores in insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals is there for a reason, to supply a steady source of energy. For example, people wonder how hummingbirds could cross the Gulf of Mexico without refueling. Experiments with hummingbirds in metabolic chambers suggest that "a male Ruby-throated hummingbird, weighing about 4.5 g, of which 2 g was fat, could fly nonstop for 26 hours, consuming the fat at the rate of 0.69 calories per hour."

have more comments as I analyze the material.

In my own experience, about a year ago I discovered I was consuming too much omega-6. For nearly four decades I ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch almost daily. When I learned that peanuts contain four thousand milligrams of omega-6 in each, 28 gram, one ounce serving of peanuts, I realized my mistake. Two months after I switched to an alternate sandwich filling the pain in my legs subsided. It has been really nice to get my mobility back.

I've been researching omega-6 ever since

By David Brown on   Sunday, February 06, 2011

Re: New Dietary Guidelines Released by USDA and HHS

Any ideas where I could read more about this?

By Slimming Capsules on   Thursday, June 16, 2011

Re: New Dietary Guidelines Released by USDA and HHS

I try to eat the best I can, and I really notice how much better I feel when I do. It takes a lot of effort but it pays off.

By Drive Belt on   Thursday, June 16, 2011

Your name:
Your email:
(Optional) Email used only to show Gravatar.
Your website:
Security Code
Enter the code shown above in the box below
Add Comment   Cancel