Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Policy Point Wednesday - DASH off your SoFAS!

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee just released a new report on Dietary Guidelines for Americans, jointly issued by the USDA and the US Department of Health and Human Services every five years.  It notes that the majority of Americans are overweight but at the same time, are undernourished in several key ingredients.

The report coins the term SoFAS to describe what they believe is the major problem in American diets: Solid Fats and Added Sugars.  "Solid fats and added sugars contribute substantially (approximately 35% of calories) to total energy intakes of Americans, thereby leading to excessive saturated fat and cholesterol intakes and insufficient intake of dietary fiber and other nutrients"  It specifies the types of foods where Americans are consuming these energy-dense, nutritionally-insufficient calories:

Solid fats (percent of solid fat intake)

  • Grain-based desserts, including cakes, cookies, pies, doughnuts, and granola bars (10.9%)
  • Regular cheese (7.7%)
  • Sausage, franks, bacon, and ribs (7.1%)
  • Report of the DGAC on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
  • Pizza (5.9%)
  • Fried white potatoes, including French fries and hash browns (5.5%)
  • Dairy-based desserts, such as ice cream (5.1%)

Added sugars (percent of added sugars intake)

  • Soda (36.6%)
  • Grain-based desserts (11.7%)
  • Fruit drinks (11.5%)
  • Dairy-based desserts (6.4%)
  • Candy (6.2%)
The report recommends that Americans reduce their intake of SoFAS to 5-10%, where they currently comprise 35% of our diets, partly in hope that this will increase our intake of vegetables - dried beans and peas are specifically mentioned - fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or lowfat milk products.  They also recommend that at least half of all grains consumed be whole grain products.

A variety of dietary approaches to addressing these issues are described, but the predominate recommendation is that Americans follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan produced by the National Institute of Health.  This diet focuses on reducing SoFAS as well as increasing intakes of nutrient-rich foods.  It also suggests that, while recognizing that there is a wide range of eating habits in the Mediterranean, this diet has been studied for a significant length of time, and does seem to meet the criterion for lowering risk of coronary artery disease.  It suggests that may warrant further study, for instance Asian diets (Japanese) or vegetarian diets, but that there is not sufficient data at this time to support these diets in the same manner as the first two.

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