THE BLOG

A Prevention Diet: Good for America

03/06/2015 10:31 am ET | Updated May 06, 2015
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Something happened in February, 2015, that could enhance the lives of millions of Americans. The Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee was issued in February. The Committee was established by the Secretaries of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HSS), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The members of the Committee include experts in nutrition and medicine from around the country.

A primary focus of this report is the American obesity epidemic among adults and children. Obesity itself raises the risk for diabetes, heart disease, and many types of cancer.

In the letter with guidelines to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack, 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Chair Barbara E. Millen, DrPH, RD, FADA, writes:

Our Report highlights the major diet-related health problems we face as a Nation and must reverse. About half of all American adults -- 117 million individuals -- have one or more preventable chronic diseases that relate to poor quality dietary patterns and physical inactivity, including cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and diet-related cancers. More than two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and youth are overweight or obese. These devastating health problems have persisted for decades, strained U.S. health care costs, and focused the attention of our health care system on disease treatment rather than prevention. They call for bold action and sound, innovative solutions.

The 2015 report lists several "shortfall nutrients" that are not consumed enough among certain members of the population. For example, iron is a shortfall nutrient for adolescents and premenopausal women. Calcium, vitamin D, fiber and potassium are not consumed enough, and deficiencies in these nutrients have significant health outcomes.

Sodium and saturated fat are overconsumed in the United States. The Committee recommends limiting or eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages and refined grains from our diets. Drinking water should be encouraged.

So what is a healthful diet, according to the Committee?

A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, legumes and nuts. While lean red meat can be a part of a healthy diet, according the report, other red meats, and processed meats, are to be limited or avoided.

Improved access to fresh vegetables and fruits, especially by low-income individuals, is essential. And we need to do more to educate both children and adults regarding the basics of good nutrition, and smart food shopping strategies.

The Committee calls for a comprehensive approach to good health, that includes increased physical activity at home, school, work, and child care settings. Collaboration among adults and children, members of the media and medical community, government, industry, environmental groups, prevention advocacy groups and more is required to effect change in the health of Americans.

Less Cancer is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of cancer and other diseases. We endorse these guidelines under the guidance of leading experts to prevent disease, including cancer.

We call upon the food industry to support these guidelines, and take the lead in this vital effort. Schools, corporations, small businesses and families across the nation can join together and create a healthier environment for all Americans.

According to the University of Connecticut Rudd Center, "The food industry spends $1.8 billion per year in the U.S. on marketing targeted to young people. The overwhelming majority of these ads are for unhealthy products, high in calories, sugar, fat, and sodium."

Think of the positive influence in eating habits among America's youth could be achieved by the food industry! What if advertisements promoted more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains for children and adults? It could be done, and we should expect the food industry to raise its standards and contribute to ending the obesity epidemic.

Much can be accomplished to prevent disease risk, starting with food: what kind, how much and how foods are grown, raised and prepared. Maintaining sustainable natural resources is an important goal in this process.

We endorse these guidelines under the guidance of leading experts to prevent disease, specifically cancer.

Each of us can show support for the new dietary guidelines. You can comment at: health.gov.

Now is the time to work toward a world without cancer, and other preventable diseases. Americans can be a stronger, more vigorous and productive society. Let's start with a healthy diet, and an active, energetic lifestyle. That's a change that's good for all of us.