A panel of nutrition experts proposed new U.S. dietary guidelines on Friday that acknowledge a link between soft drinks and weight gain, but stopped short of telling increasingly overweight America to eat less sugar. The 13-member panel, commissioned by the Bush administration, said "social changes" in America's supersized lifestyle would help shrink the country's waistline. It recommended Americans exercise more, eat less bad fats and reduce the size of portions, while suggesting that consuming less sugar may aid weight control. The panel's report also blamed the lack of calorie information at restaurants and high cost of fruit and vegetables for contributing to an overweight society. Two-thirds of American adults are overweight and childhood obesity is ballooning. Obesity caused by poor diet and physical inactivity is blamed for 400,000 deaths a year and may soon overtake smoking as the No. 1 cause of preventable death. Consumer groups had hoped the panel would bluntly recommend that Americans limit their consumption of soft drinks and other sugary foods, a view sharply opposed by beverage makers and the sugar industry, who say weight gain is due to many factors. Past versions of the guidelines have included advice to watch sugar intake as one basic rule for healthy eating. Updated every five years by the Agriculture and Health departments, the guidelines are the basis of the food pyramid printed on food packages. Panelists recommended consumers choose fats and carbohydrates "wisely," shunning saturated and trans fat in favor of more omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, and to limit salt and alcohol, informs Reuter. According to Newsday, an expert panel updating the government's dietary guidelines is recommending Americans watch their calories, exercise daily and eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. But the panel scrapped a previous recommendation to limit sugar intake, instead advising Americans to "choose carbohydrates wisely." The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its recommendations Friday, consisting of nine one-sentence summary guidelines, supported by dozens of pages of explanation and detail. The guidelines, the foundation for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Pyramid, are due for a five-year update. They are used as a template for the school lunch program and WIC, the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children. Friday's recommendations are not a final draft; the public has 30 days to comment. One guideline says, "Choose and prepare foods with little salt." In the detail that follows, the panel urges older adults, and blacks in particular, to cut back on salt. The black community bears a disproportionate burden of high blood pressure. But with two-thirds of Americans overweight and the number of people battling Type 2 diabetes on the rise, some critics charged the panel had soft-pedaled the recommendations. Although the full report contains specific guidelines - such as recommendations to limit eggs, meat and dairy that contain fat to reduce cholesterol - some advocates said they were too nuanced for the general public to absorb.
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