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Is that right? Dietary guidelines embrace Mediterranean diet

Bloggers have met the report of the advisory committee for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 released this week largely with yawns (or derision). Many don't seem too impressed with the document, which calls for Americans to shift toward a more nutrient-dense, plant-based diet and to cut back on sugar, fat and sodium.

But I haven't seen anyone mention a really big change in the document, which by law is updated every five years. Whereas the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) focused on specific nutrients, telling how much of each we should consume in a day, the new guidelines would have us pay more attention to our "total" diet. And while the 2005 guidelines cited as examples of nutritionally sound diets the USDA Food Guide and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan, the proposed ones ditch the USDA example and substitute add the Mediterranean approach (along with the DASH) as an optimal choice.

That change is sweet music to the ears of folks at Oldways, the Boston-based organization that since the early 1990s has promoted the Mediterranean diet as a healthful lifestyle choice. (I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the recent death of Oldways founder K. Dun Gifford and whether that sad event cast a pall on the value of that diet.) Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for Oldways and its affiliate the Whole Grains Council, says Oldways has "always kept an eye on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and tried to nudge them in the right direction."

"We're really pleased" that the DASH and Mediterranean diets figure so prominently in the proposed DGA, Harriman says. "They are so thoroughly and solidly documented for their health benefits that they really stand above all others" as models for healthful eating, she notes.

Harriman's also happy that the proposed guidelines emphasize "the pleasures of the table" and that they call for a concerted effort involving not just individuals but also government, industry, stores, restaurants and other entities in creating a more healthful eating environment for all.

Other interesting tidbits from the proposed DGA: The document recommends Americans gradually reduce their sodium consumption from the currently acceptable 2,300 milligrams per day to 1,500 mg daily. And -- I can already hear the dietary supplement industry protesting -- the guidelines come right out and say:

A daily multivitamin/mineral supplement does not offer health benefits to healthy Americans. Individual mineral/vitamin supplements can benefit some population groups with known deficiencies, such as calcium and vitamin D supplements to reduce risk of osteoporosis or iron supplements among those with deficient iron intakes. However, in some settings, mineral/vitamin supplements have been associated with harmful effects and should be pursued cautiously.

If you've got anything to say about the proposed guidelines, you have until July 15 to submit written comments, and a public meeting will be held in D.C. July 8 for those who wish to offer comments in person. From there, the USDA and department of Health and Human Services will take comments into account as they wrangle the advisory report into the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The final document is due at the end of the year.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  June 18, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right? , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity  
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Posted by: shellroyal19 | June 19, 2010 1:14 AM | Report abuse

The last dietary guidelines were a joke. The food pyramid was a joke (under pressure from the sugar industry, it even made a place for sugar -- "discretionary calories" -- in the model diet). It seems the big step forward in this guideline is basically style not substance. In a country where I have to now shop in the juniors department because women's clothes are cut for bulbous women nowadays, that's pretty lame.

Posted by: AsperGirl | June 19, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

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