HHS, USDA release dietary guidelines to help reduce cardiovascular disease

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The federal government released updated guidelines on Jan. 7 recommending that people eat a healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains, oils, fat-free or low-fat dairy and a variety of foods with protein such as seafood, lean meats and poultry.

The authors of the report mentioned that approximately half of U.S. adults (147 million people) have at least one preventable, diet-related chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack  wrote that medical costs associated with obesity were estimated as $147 billion in 2008. Meanwhile, the estimated cost of diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in decreased productivity.

An act passed in 1990 required that HHS and USDA jointly publish dietary guidelines every five years based on the current scientific and medical knowledge. The federal government uses the guidelines to develop its food, nutrition and health policies and programs as well as educational materials.

The recommendations include that people should consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars, less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats and less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. The report’s authors also suggested adults drink up to one alcoholic drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

“The body of scientific literature looking at healthy eating patterns and their impact on disease prevention is far more robust now than ever before,” Burwell and Vilsack wrote. “Chronic diet-related diseases continue to rise and levels of physical activity remain low. Progress in reversing these trends will require comprehensive and coordinated strategies, and the Dietary Guidelines is an important part of a complex and multifaceted solution to promote health and help to reduce the risk of chronic disease.”