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New Federal Dietary Guidelines

Posted 1/8/2016

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  As you may already know, the federal government just released a new set of dietary guidelines. There has been quite a lot of expressed criticism from a number of quarters--including various cancer organizations. These guidelines are being noted for what they don't say as much as for what is included.

  All the questions about diet and cancer come up almost daily in my practice. For example, I met this week for the first time with a lovely woman who is nearing the completion of treatment for ovarian cancer. Naturally, she is focused on what she can do for herself going forward, are there strategies and recommendations that may help her stay healthy. Other than suggesting exercise and the commonsense guidelines about getting enough sleep, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, being aware of alcohol consumption, not smoking, and wearing a seat belt, the answer is no. I am well aware that magazines and book stores and, most especially, the internet are full of diet suggestions that suggest that eating X but not Y will prevent or cure cancer. Sadly, not true.

  If you don't believe me, ask your doctor at your next visit and you will hear the same thing. Eat a healthy diet as we normally understand it, but don't expect that sea weed or avoiding all sweets or ten daily portions of kale will make a whit of difference vis a vis the cancer. It won't.

  Here is the start of a New York Times article about these new guidelines:

New Dietary Guidelines Urge Less Sugar for All and Less
Protein for Boys and Men

By Anahad O'Connor 

New federal dietary guidelines announced on Thursday urge Americans to drastically cut back on sugar, and for the first time have singled out teenage boys and men for eating too much meat, chicken and eggs.
Despite those warnings, the guidelines were also notable for what they did not say. While draft recommendations had suggested all Americans adopt more environmentally-sustainable eating habits by cutting back on meat, that advice was dropped from the final guidelines. And longstanding limits on dietary cholesterol were also removed, a victory for the nation’s egg producers, which have long argued that cholesterol from eggs and seafood is not a major health concern.
The dietary guidelines, issued by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments, are updated every five years and were first issued in 1980. Typically, they have encouraged Americans to consume more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, and low-fat foods, while restricting intake of saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol. Though many individual consumers may not give the guidelines much thought, the recommendations have the potential to influence the diets of millions of Americans. The guidelines affect the foods chosen for the school lunch program, which feeds more than 30 million children each school day, and they help shape national food assistance programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, which has eight million beneficiaries.

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