Nutrition news: Some experts question utility of government food pyramid

The federal government plans to release new dietary guidelines this year. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, updated and jointly issued every five years bythe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are central to federal nutrition policy and nutrition education activities. The current federal guidelines, adopted in 2005 and being revised for 2010, provide advice for people ages 2 years and older about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for chronic diseases.

Walter Willett, chair, Department of Nutrition, and Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at HSPH, told the Boston Globe in a December 8, 2010, article that the new government guidelines are unlikely to change unhealthy eating habits. “It is helpful in offering a general gestalt about healthy eating,’’ he said. “But we need something more detailed that tells us how healthy this particular food is.’’

The new guidelines will be “consistent with [USDA’s] mantra that there is no such thing as a good food or a bad food. I think that ignores a huge mound of evidence that it does matter what you eat,’ Willett said.

The Globe article included a mention of the HSPH Department of Nutrition’s Healthy Eating Pyramid, which emphasizes eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Its foundation is daily exercise and weight control, since these two related elements strongly influence your chances of staying healthy.

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