Today, the U.S. government released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are updated every five years.
They are intended to use the best current evidence to provide eating advice that promotes health, helps deter chronic diseases, and reduces overweight and obesity.
Compared with the previous guidelines, the new ones encourage all people to eat 8 oz (two servings) of seafood per week, for heart and brain benefits.
Until now, the twice-a-week recommendation for seafood was limited to people diagnosed with heart disease.
Critically, as the USDA-HHS press release said, “The Report noted that the benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh the risks, even for pregnant women (HHS/USDA 2011).
The government's change of heart about the safety of seafood for expectant mothers is heartening, and overdue.
Leading fatty acid scientist William Lands, Ph.D., a Fellow of the American Society for Nutrition, provided us with this pithy comment in response to the news: “Resistance to the massive evidence is slowly crumbling.”
As the report says, “…consumption of about 8 ounces per week of a variety of seafood, which provide an average consumption of 250 milligrams per day of [omega-3] EPA and DHA, is associated with reduced cardiac deaths among individuals with and without pre-existing cardiovascular disease” (DGA 2011).
And it made an important point about child health:
“In addition to the health benefits for the general public, the nutritional value of seafood is of particular importance during fetal growth and development, as well as in early infancy and childhood” (DGA 2011).
It's possible that the new dietary guidelines will lead the U.S. FDA and EPA to change their joint seafood-consumption advisory, which warns pregnant and breastfeeding women to limit seafood intake to 12 ounces per week.
Guidelines urge more plant foods, more exercise, less “screen time”
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines—which were announced jointly by the USDA and the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS)—urge Americans to balance calorie intake with calorie-burning activity.
The guidelines went further than ever before in addressing eating behaviors (e.g., breakfast, snacking, fast food)… and stressed the association between increased “screen” time (television, computers, smart phones, video games) and increased body weight.
As we'd expect, they also urge Americans to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood… but less sodium, saturated and trans fats (e.g., meats, full-fat dairy, and hydrogenated oils), sugars, and refined grains (e.g., pastries, white bread, or white-flour crackers and bagels).
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressed hope that the new advice will have a real impact: “The new Dietary Guidelines provide concrete action steps to help people live healthier, more physically active and longer lives” (HHS/USDA 2011).
We sure hope so… and if people heed it, the government's stronger, broader seafood-consumption advice could play a big part.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 (DGA). Jan. 31, 2011 Accessed at http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm
US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS/USDA). USDA and HHS Announce New Dietary Guidelines to Help Americans Make Healthier Food Choices and Confront Obesity Epidemic. Jan. 31, 2011 Accessed at http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm