WASHINGTON – The Department of Agriculture, as it does every five years, issued new guidelines for improving the nation’s diet on Tuesday, but the main recommendations were steps that Americans have so far largely avoided adopting – cutting back on salt, sugar and saturated fats, and consuming more fruits and vegetables.
Indeed, the preliminary version of the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released Tuesday, are not much different from those issued 30 years ago.
Candidly acknowledging the lack of progress, the USDA Guidelines Advisory Committee said the new dietary recommendations are aimed at “an American public of whom the majority are overweight or obese and yet undernourished in several key nutrients.”
Both the increasing severity of the problem and its cost are reflected in the new recommendations on salt.
Americans currently consume an average of 3,400 milligrams of salt daily, and excessive intake has been implicated in heart disease, strokes and other maladies costing billions of dollars annually.
The new guidelines lower the recommended maximum daily intake of salt from 2,300 mg per day to 1,500 mg per day. In 2005, that was the recommended maximum only for blacks, persons of all races middle-aged and older, and people with high blood pressure.
But today, fully 70 percent of the U.S. population falls into one or another of those categories, so the committee recommended applying the 1,500-milligram standard to the entire population.