The American Heart Association welcomes the release of the new dietary guidelines issued at the end of January by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), which emphasize the importance of weight control and eating a diet that has the most nutrients for the least calories and includes a focus on eating more plant-based foods, avoiding added sugars and getting adequate physical activity.
Many of the recommendations in the new guidelines are similar to the diet score that is being used by the American Heart Association to define ideal cardiovascular health as part of the organization’s 2020 goals. (Take it now at www.heart.org/mylifecheck.) The diet score includes recommendations on consumption of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole-grains, sodium, sugar-sweetened beverages and fish.
However, the American Heart Association is deeply disappointed in the federal guidelines’ recommendations on sodium and saturated fat — considered a backwards step from the dietary guidelines released in 2005, and also not consistent with USDA/HHS’s own Advisory Committee recommendations, released in June 2010.
The guidelines’ new sodium recommendation advises about half of the population — including those 51 years and older and those of any age who are African Americans or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease — to reduce daily sodium intake to less than 1500 mg. However, significantly, for those who don’t fall into those categories, the recommendation is to reduce intake to just 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
By specifying “age 51” for the population recommendation of 1,500 mg, the American Heart Association believes these guidelines do not address the very real issue of excess sodium consumption across the population, and in fact, these guidelines actually take an unfortunate step backwards. In 2005, this level of sodium intake was specified for “middle-aged and older-aged”, which is generally interpreted as above age 40. When this age is used, as it was in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statement in the 2010 MMWR, fully 69 percent of the adult population meets the 2005 criteria for the 1,500 mg level. Now the guidelines only address older-aged Americans.
The American Heart Association and others in the public health community strongly recommend a daily sodium consumption limit of less than 1500 mg a day intake for all Americans. The association is concerned that the new dietary sodium recommendation does not go far enough to support achieving this goal by 2020 and to promote the health of the nation. The 1,500 mg recommendation should apply to all Americans — children and adults.
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