Tag Archives: calories

The New Guideline on Nutrition

A nutrition advisory panel that helps shape the country’s official dietary guidelines eased some of its previous restrictions on fat and cholesterol on Thursday and recommended sharp new limits on the amount of added sugar that Americans should consume.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which convenes every five years, followed the lead of other major health groups like the American Heart Association that in recent years have backed away from dietary cholesterol restrictions and urged people to cut back on added sugars.

The panel said that Americans were eating too much salt, sugar and saturated fat, and not enough foods that fit a “healthy dietary pattern,” like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and moderate levels of alcohol. Members of the panel said they wanted Americans to focus less on individual nutrients and more on overall patterns of eating, such as a Mediterranean-style diet, which is associated with lower rates of heart disease and stroke.

The panel singled out added sugars as one of its major concerns. Previous dietary guidelines have included warnings about eating too much added sugar, but for the first time the panel recommended that Americans limit it to no more than 10 percent of daily calories — roughly 12 teaspoons a day for many adults — because of its link to obesity and chronic disease.

Americans consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices and other sugary drinks. The panel said sugary drinks should be removed from schools, and it endorsed a rule proposed by the Food and Drug Administration that would require a distinct line for added sugars on food nutrition labels, a change the food and sugar industries have aggressively fought.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Counting Calories Will be Easier in 2015

Now it’s official. Starting next November, menus in many places where Americans eat — like chain restaurants and some movie theaters, convenience stores and amusement parks — will have to list calories.

Consumer health advocates were jubilant when the Food and Drug Administration announced the new policy on Tuesday. Many had fought for the rule for more than a decade, believing it would be a major weapon in the fight against obesity.

But will it?

The evidence on whether menu labeling works — either to move the national needle on obesity, or to reduce the number of calories an individual consumes after looking at a menu — is pretty skimpy, in part because the practice hasn’t been around that long.

In the few places where menu labeling exists, like New York and Philadelphia, most studies have observed a few thousand people over just a few weeks and months — too small a group and too short a time to detect the subtle changes that economists expect the policy will prompt.

Brian Elbel, associate professor of population health at New York University’s School of Medicine, has spent weeks outside fast food restaurants talking to customers and collecting their receipts.

The findings have been uninspiring so far. In a study he did in 2008 in New York City, only slightly more than half of consumers even saw the posted calories, and of those, a little over a quarter (around 15 percent of the total) said the information changed what they ordered. He conducted a larger study in 2010 in Philadelphia after that city started requiring chain restaurants to post calories, and the results were similar.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary