The U.S. government is asking Americans to eat less and exercise more in an effort to stem the country's increasing epidemic of obesity. It has issued revised dietary recommendations that emphasize proper nutrition, more physical activity, and personal initiative in maintaining a healthy weight.
U.S. law requires the government to revise its dietary guidelines every five years to keep up with the latest scientific research. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, whose agency is responsible for promoting healthy nutrition, says this year's update is an effort to reverse a situation where two-thirds of Americans are too heavy.
"The new dietary guidelines are part of the ongoing effort to help Americans adopt and keep healthier lifestyle and to address the epidemic of overweight and obesity that is affecting so many, especially our nation's children," she said. "The federal government is committed to helping fight this epidemic."
Secretary Veneman acknowledges that the food recommendations have not changed much over the years. They still call for diets rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and limits on fatty foods and salt. This year, however, they place stronger emphasis on the importance of balancing energy intake and output, calling on people to cut their calorie consumption and exercise more. The guidelines urge adults to exercise at least moderately for no less than 30 minutes a day and children, 60 minutes daily.
The U.S. agriculture official acknowledges that past government efforts to promote a healthy diet have failed, although she notes that the public recognizes the importance of weight control as shown by the strength of the multi-billion dollar diet industry.
"All of these diets have become wildly popular and become best sellers. Clearly people are reaching out for information. Have we been successful in the past? Certainly we've had dietary guidelines and yet we still see increasing overweight and obesity in this country," Secretary Veneman said.
U.S. Health Secretary Tommy Thompson says too many Americans want to lose weight without any effort, and poured scorn on those waiting for a miracle diet pill.
"There's not going to be a pill! So let's face it, America. There is more information out there, but it always come back to: Eat your fruits and vegetables, watch your calorie intake, and exercise," he urged. "That's as simple as it can be!"
Mr. Thompson says U.S. food manufacturers are responding to the need for healthier diets, especially for children. Many have reduced the amount of sugar in children's breakfast cereals and are promoting the whole grain and vitamin content of other foods. And as the government issued its new dietary guidelines, one of the largest U.S. food companies, Kraft, announced that it will restrict advertising of snack foods to children 12 and under and market its healthier products to this age group.