Term Paper: Nutrition the Familiar Food Pyramid

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Nutrition

The familiar food pyramid, introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1992, consists of the six basic food groups. In the first are fats, oil, sweets and sugars; in the second are meats and other protein sources; milk and other dairy products in the third; fruits in the fourth group; vegetables in the fifth; and bread, rice and other complex carbohydrates in the sixth and last (Paul 2003). This has been the nation's primary teacher about nutrition, but experts now worry and blame the food pyramid's emphasis on grains and other starchy foods as behind the increase in obesity among Americans (Gannet 2003). The huge amount of carbohydrates recommended has not been supported by any scientific body of evidence, according to Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department of Harvard University School of Public Health. An estimated 300,000 people every year die nationwide from illnesses caused or made worse by overweight. Nutritionists were concerned that people did not know how to interpret the food pyramid in that they did not know what a serving size was. The standards were set years ago when people ate less. Bagels, popcorn and a 3-ounce beefsteak, for example, exceeded the amounts recommended for their respective food groups. In revising the food pyramid, nutrition authorities had to emphasize that eating more calories and eating larger amounts meant taking more calories and gaining weight.

The 2005 Food Pyramid

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last February released the dietary guidelines for Americans, aimed at promoting healthy habits and reducing the risk of chronic disease through poor or wrong nutrition and physical activity (Ressel 2005). The new guidelines put stronger emphasis on reduced calorie consumption and increased physical activity. Serving sizes are expressed in cup or ounce. Non-fat or low-fat dairy products are now encouraged. The goals are to control weight, gain stronger muscles and bones and balance nutritional intake. The 2005 food pyramid consists of the whole grains group, the vegetables group, the fruits group, the milk and other dairy products group, and the meat and beans group (mypyramid.gov 2005). It recommends a minimum intake of 3 ounces of whole grains, such as whole grain cereals, breads, crackers, ice and pasta on a daily basis. One ounce is equivalent to 1 bread slice, 1 cup of breakfast cereal, 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta or cereal. Vegetables must be the dark green variety, like broccoli, or the orange variety, like carrots and sweet potatoes, dry beans and peas. Those who have intolerance for lactose may take lactose-free and other calcium sources, such as fortified foods and beverages. Meat and other protein sources are preferably low-fat and lean meats and poultry, based, broiled or grilled. Fish, peas, nuts and seeds are preferable to meats. The new guidelines also advise those at the 2000-calorie daily intake level to consume 6 ounces of whole grains, 2 1/2 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruits, 3 cups of milk or dairy products, and 5 1/2 ounces of meat and beans every day (mypyramid.gov).

Balanced Intake and Physical Activity.- the new food pyramid aims at balancing food intake with physical activity and at limiting the intake of fats, sugars and salt (mypyramid.gov 2005). In balancing food intake with physical activity, one must keep within his or her required or desired caloric need limit, be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day in most days, devote 60 minutes to physical activity to prevent weight gain, 60-90 minutes of physical activity to lose weight and maintain weight loss, and children and teen-agers must be physically active for at least one hours each day in most days. And in limiting the intake of fats, sugars and salt, the source of fats should be fish, nuts, and vegetable oils; solid fats from butter, margarine, shortenings and lard should be limited; keep fats, trans fats and sodium or salt low; and all foods and beverages must be low in added sugars so as to avoid useless calories of little or no nutritional value (mypyramid.gov).

Focus on Dairy Foods - the new federal Food Guide Pyramid gave prominence to dairy foods for their nutritional benefits (Dairy Field 2004) by assigning it a distinct group for milk, cheese and yogurt. Acting on the recommendation of the International Dairy Foods Association or IDFA on the nutritional attributes of dairy foods, the USDA, through the 2005 food pyramid, recommends two to three servings a day from the milk, cheese and yogurt group for most Americans. The Committee warned that those with inadequate dairy products intake should take precautions against developing deficiencies in calcium, potassium, phosphorous, protein, magnesium, Vitamins a and D.

Age, Gender, Weight and Exercise -the Department of Agriculture used people's age, gender, weight and the amount of exercise as primary considerations in developing the new food guide pyramid (Gersema 2003). Executive Director Eric Hentges of the USDA said that it aimed specifically at the overweight and those who did not get enough exercise. Because these groups comprised more than half the nation's population, he said that the revision was actually an attempt at changing people's behavior concerning caloric consumption. This came as a response to promptings from the White House Office of Management and Budget that the previous food pyramid was behind the country's obesity problem, which needed to be addressed and controlled. Schools under the federal lunch program used the dietary guidelines of the previous food pyramid in planning the meals given to 28 million low-income students every school day. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 60% of adults and 13% of children in America were overweight. The food pyramid undergoes revision every five years.

Behavioral Change -More than age, gender, weight and the amount of exercise or physical activity, the overhaul in the food guide pyramid was influenced by the need to effect that behavioral change through adequate but moderate nutritional choices, according to Hentges of the USDA (Food and Drink Weekly 2003). He said that this revised guide addressed most the sad fact that most Americans did not exercise regularly but had a sedentary lifestyle. It also called greater attention to concerns over trans fats and the benefits derived from whole grains. It offered more details on the amounts of calories in each group for daily intake. This revised version consisted of recommended servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and milk, based on 12 calorie levels of 1,000 to 3,200 calories. The former food guide was based on only three levels, namely 1,600; 2,200; and 2,800 calorie levels.

Public Reactions - People had their ideas about how to change the federal food guide pyramid, which should guide them on how to eat (Hirsch 2004). Over 600 pages of letters, emails and drawing were sent to the USDA on what a nation obsessed with diet thought about it. One suggested that the new version would pump the heart, another warned against the poisons in vegetables and the rest believed that most Americans were health literate enough. The last food pyramid was introduced in 1992 and replaced the four food groups that many Americans got accustomed with. The 1992 food pyramid was aimed at simplifying the torrent of complex dietary advice. This was a triangle with segments, each representing different foods under the same or similar categories.

Private Businesses' Reactions -and there is at stake more than just the issue of obesity. Enterprises and lobbyists took the chance to demonstrate that people could not live too well without their products (Hirsch 2004). One group consisted of walnut growers, the most active, who stressed that people should not miss the intake of walnuts' alpha-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid, which these growers claimed could not be manufactured by the body. The Independent Bakers Association in Washington commented that Americans should stop blaming the nutrient for their weight problems and instead reduce their intake and be more physically active. Dieters and dietary supplement makers responded with their print ads, claiming that breads and cereals were rightfully relegated to the peak and smallest part of the pyramid. In all cases, the American public wanted more information, mostly greater distinctions between simple and complex carbohydrate, healthy and unhealthy oils, taking beans and nuts out of the meat and fish group, and separating starchy vegetables from leafy green vegetables. Some agreed and others disagreed that there should be separate food pyramids for the obese and the elderly. The largest number of respondents insisted that fitness should give greater prominence to fruits and vegetables, most of whom were vegetarians and vegans. Sugar producers expressed their belief that available scientific literature showed that sugar intake was not involved in obesity or any lifestyle disease, as most everyone thought. Defenders of the old pyramid, who were mostly teachers of nutrition courses, maintained that it did not need a revision. What needed to be changed, they said was this society's unfortunate attitude of looking for a scapegoat rather than its loss of balance, variety and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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