The Obama administration's new dietary guidelines, released Thursday, back off the strictest sodium rules included in the last version, while still asserting that Americans consume too much salt.
After a backlash from the meat industry and Congress, the administration ignored several suggestions from a February report by an advisory committee of doctors and nutrition experts. That panel suggested calling for an environmentally friendly diet lower in red and processed meats and de-emphasized lean meats in its list of proteins that are part of a healthy diet.
Released every five years, the guidelines are intended to help Americans prevent disease and obesity. They inform everything from food package labels to subsidized school lunches to your doctor's advice. And the main message hasn't changed much over the years: Eat your fruits and vegetables. Whole grains and seafood, too. And keep sugar, fats and salt in moderation.
"Small changes can add up to big differences," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Sugar-sweetened beverages make up a large portion of those empty calories. According to the guidelines, sugary drinks comprise 47 per cent of the added sugars that Americans eat every day.
New figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease for Disease Control and Prevention show that around 90 per cent of people eat too much. The average person eats 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, and the guidelines say everyone should lower that amount to 2,300, or about a teaspoon.
The new guidelines drop that lower amount as part of the top recommendations. Still, advice buried deeper in the guidelines says that those with high blood pressure and prehypertension could benefit from a steeper reduction.
That recommendation is gone, following increasing medical research showing the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream is more complicated than once thought. Some more recent studies have shown little relationship between heart disease and how much dietary cholesterol one eats.
As in previous years, the report advises limiting saturated fats to 10 per cent of total calories. And while lean meats are promoted, the government does suggest certain populations, such as teen boys and adult men, should reduce their meat intake and eat more vegetables. Data included in the report shows that males ages 14 to 70 consume more than recommended amounts of meat, eggs and poultry, while women are more in line with advised amounts.
Congress got involved, encouraging the administration to drop the recommendations based on environmental impact and at one point proposing to set new standards for the science the guidelines can use. That language did not become law, however. A year-end spending bill simply said the guidelines must be "based on significant scientific agreement" and "limited in scope to nutritional and dietary information."