Harvard Health Letter

Rules to eat by

Some tidbits from the expert committee that advised the government on the creation of new Dietary Guidelines.

Every five years, the federal government issues new Dietary Guidelines. A new set is scheduled to be released in December 2010 [the guidelines were released late, in January 2011], along with some kind of graphical representation (in the past, it's been a pyramid) that is supposed to communicate the content to the public in a catchy way. Most Americans are barely aware of the guidelines, but that doesn't mean they're inconsequential. They're used to set policy for school lunches, food stamps, and other government food programs. And as the government's official word on what we should be eating, the guidelines are an important point of reference in nutrition research and policy.

Historically, food industry and agricultural interests have often trumped nutrition science in development of the guidelines. Walter C. Willett, chair of the Harvard School of Public Health's nutrition department and a member of the Health Letter's editorial board, was part of a group that met with White House and other government officials during the summer of 2010. He is cautiously optimistic that science and public health will prevail this time.

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