Americans must make drastic changes in their eating habits if they want to live longer, according to a Senate committee report released yesterday.
The report, "Dietary Goals for the United States," recommends significant reductions in the consumption of the kinds of foods most Americans love to eat: soft drinks, candy, baked goods like cakes and pies, patato chips, pretzels and red meat.
The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, George McGovern (D-SD.), told a press conference that "too much fat too much sugar or salt can be and are linked directly to heart disease, cancer, coesity and stroke among other killer diseases."
The report is the first by a government body to offer specific recommendations for changing dietary habits.
Dr. Mark Hegsted, professor of nutrition at Harvard and one of the three nutritionists who helped to prepare it, said: "There will undoubtedly be many people who will say we have not proven our point; we have not demonstrated that the dietary modifications we recommend will yield the dividends expected."
If the report's recommendations were followed by most Americans, some food manufacturers such as soft drink makers might be forced to change or cut back on their products.
The report, while recommending a decrease in consumption of sugar, salt, and red meat and of other foods high in fat and chelesterol, said Americans should increase their consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grain products.
The report calls for:
Reduction of sugar consumption by 40 per cent. "The most obvious item for general reduction is soft drinks." At the beginning of the century a person consumed about 76 pounds of sugar a year, todaya person eats more than 100 pounds.
Reduction in salt consumption by 50 to 85 per cent People can get all the salt they need, "without adding salt to any food."
Reduction in overall fat intake by 10 per cent and replacement of some saturated fat with polyunsaturated and nonunsaturated fat. In order to achieve these goals the report recomments that people get more protein from fish and poultry, whole grain products and skim milk instead of red meat, whole milk and foods high in butterfat such as ice cream and cream cheese.
Reduction of cholesterol consumption by half from 600 miligrams to 300 mg a day. This would mean eating fewer eggs because the yolk of one egg contains 250 mg of cholesterol.
Such a diet, the report said, could reduce the rate of heart attacks by 25 per cent, incidence and death from cancer by 20 per cent and infant mortality by 50 per cent.
"In addition to improving the health of many American a shift to the dietary goals outlined offers potential for significant reduction in food costs," the report said.
To implement the recommendations, the report said Congress should for students, school cafetaria workers, provide money for nutrition education and for those in federal feeding programs such as food stamps. It said extensive use should be made of television to educate the public.
The report suggested that labels on food products be required to carry information about fat, sugar, cholesterol and caloric content.
McGovern said, "Our diets have changed radically within the last 50 years, with great and often very harmful effects on our health. These dietary changes represent as great a threat to public health as smoking."
He expressed the hope that the report would give "meaningful guidance in matters of diet" and help to settle the "confusion about what to eat and how our diet affects us."