A 1,000 page Dietary Reference Intake Report issued last week by the US National Academies' Institute of Medicine has people even more confused about what to eat and what not to eat to maintain good health, claims Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in the USA.
Media misinterpretation over what the report means, adds to mainstream Americans' growing quandary over how much (and what kind of) fats, carbohydrates, sugars, fibre and protein keeps people in the range of good health.
"Americans are exposed to so many conflicting ideas about low fat, low carbohydrate, high protein and exercise that there is concern they'll give up an already difficult struggle to chose a diet that promotes good health," said Rachel Johnson, a contributor to the Institute of Medicine's report. Johnson was among a panel of US and Canadian scientists who produced the report.
"These reference values were established for practitioners like registered dieticians who set healthy diets for groups of people. They are not really meant to be recommendations for consumers to use to sit down and figure out their own diets," Johnson clarifies."Consumers currently can't even tell how much added sugars there are in a food or beverage by reading a nutrition facts label,"
Figures that suggest added sugars (those added to food during processing and production) should be no more than 25 per cent of total calories "is far from a recommendation, it's saying that this is the maximum amount people can consume before there is a significant decline in the intakes of essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin A," said Johnson. "We carefully looked at the data and when added sugars exceed 25 per cent of energy you see a clear drop-off of vitamin and mineral intake.
"People should not exceed 25 per cent, but this does not say that a healthy diet contains 25 per cent. In fact, it can be difficult to meet recommendations like three servings of dairy products a day and five servings of fruits and vegetables a day at this level of added sugars intake."
"Personally, I think people should aim for an added-sugars intake of 10-12 per cent of total calories."
According to Johnson a further key point in the report includes the recommendations on fats. "We are not saying eat more fat," Johnson emphasises. "We are saying get most of your fats from mono- and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts and seeds." The report actually writes, 'because saturated fat and cholesterol provide no known beneficial role in preventing chronic diseases, they are not required at any level in the diet.'
Johnson concluded:"The Food Guide Pyramid is not all wrong, as a result of this new Dietary Reference Intake Report, but it could use some tinkering."