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Lower Saturated Fat & Sugar

Reduce Saturated Fats & Refined Sugars

To maintain health and reduce risk of heart disease and cancer, Americans should try to eliminate saturated fats and added sugars from their diets and get at least an hour of physical activity a day, according to a new report released recently by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board.

The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board also recommended that Americans get 45%-65% of their calories from carbohydrates, 20%-35% from fat and 10%-35% from protein.

The Board’s last set of recommendations, made in 1989, urged a daily allowance of 50% or more for carbohydrates and 30% or less of fat. The protein recommendation was similar.

The new guidelines are also likely to be used by advocates and critics of the many diets Americans have grabbed onto in the quest to beat obesity. But the Board members noted that their targets are for healthy people who want to maintain, not lose, weight, and who want to minimize their risk of chronic disease.

Currently, the average American diet is 52% carbohydrate, 33% fat and 15% protein – within the Board’s recommended range, said member Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition professor at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

“But, we’re eating too much saturated fat,” not getting enough physical activity, and eating too many calories, she added.

Saturated fat is in meats, baked goods, and full-fat dairy products. The panel said it is “not required at any level in the diet” because it has no known beneficial role in preventing disease. But since it would be difficult for Americans to eliminate it, they should keep saturated fat to as low a level as possible, said the Board.

Trans fatty acids, found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils used in crackers, cookies, fast food and some dairy products, increase heart disease risk by elevating “bad” cholesterol. “There is no safe level of trans fatty acids and people should eat as little of them as possible,” the Board recommended.

It also said added sugars in sodas and processed foods should make up no more than 25% of the total daily caloric intake.

In addition to intake recommendations, the Board also placed a new emphasis on exercise, doubling the Surgeon General’s recommended half-hour of activity daily.

“Exercise itself seems to be strongly associated with health,” said Board member Dr. Benjamin Cabellero of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. Cabellero said the Board found that people who best maintained a healthy weight “exercised a lot more than we thought.”

The Board also recommended new daily intakes for linoleic and alpha-linoleic acids, found in vegetable oils made from safflower, corn, soybean and flax, walnuts, and walnut oil. And it defined new fiber intake requirements, but said the data are inconclusive on whether fiber can help with weight control or prevent colon cancer.

The recommendations are in line with those by the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and others to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, said Lupton.

To maintain weight and health, “it’s a matter of balance,” said Hayes, echoing the Board’s recommendation that energy intake should equal energy consumption.

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