Our Opinion: New dietary guidelines must be promoted

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2005

New dietary guidelines released Tuesday by the Department of Agriculture are long over due.

As noted by scientists who presented the guidelines, knowledge of diet and health has improved significantly in the 12 years since the now recognizable food pyramid was introduced.

The biggest change in the guidelines, and if followed the one likely to have the biggest impact, is the recommendation for 30 minutes a day of exercise.

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More than what you eat, it’s the amount of physical activity in your day that makes a difference. Amish farmers who subsist almost exclusively on high fat dairy and meat products–and, yes, bread–are among the leanest and healthiest among us. They take an average of 19,000 steps a day, according to Runner’s World magazine.

While you don’t have to do that much, any activity is better than none, which is the amount too many of us, particularly children, get these days.

While there was great excitement in nutrition circles over the announcement Tuesday, the excitement is premature. Since the pyramid’s debut in 1992, Americans have steadily grown fatter and a report last month by the New England Journal Medicine stated that obesity was shaving four to nine months off the average life expectancy.

The reason for that is preparing the guidelines is only half the battle. The other half is to promote it, and that’s where the government has failed miserably. We hope that changes this time around. If we have money to pay journalists to promote other, dubious, administration policies, then surely there’s some available that could really do some good.

Granted, it’s not government’s job to keep us healthy. It’s a personal choice. However, the poor choices individuals make where their health is concerned impact us all in terms of health care costs, insurance premiums and business productivity and profitability.

If not enough is done to promote the guidelines, it will be a waste of time and money.