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Editor's Note: Dietary guidelines sell seafood short
February 01, 2005
Seafood didn’t get the boost the industry had hoped for when the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services released the 2005 Dietary Guidelines last month. This health directive, which is used by nutrition-education experts and influences spending for national food-assistance programs, is “based on the latest scientific information, including medical knowledge,” say the USDA and HHS.
But the latest information on seafood and the recommendation from the USDA’s own Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to include seafood were not incorporated into the guidelines.
Anyone who followed the committee’s discussions last year expected the 2005 guidelines to recommend that all Americans eat at least two servings of seafood weekly. The research from the committee unequivocally supported the recommendation. But it seems input from its own advisory committee, the American Heart Association, National Cholesterol Education Program, World Health Organization, European Society for Cardiology, UK Scientific Advisory Committee and American Diabetes Association was not enough for the U.S. government.
Just to be clear, the 2005 guidelines do recommend that consumers eat seafood twice a week if they have a history of heart disease. But this recommendation falls far short of giving the same advice to the overall U.S. population.
What will it take for the government to get behind the proven concept that eating specific foods can support health and prevent disease? The USDA says this approach is followed when crafting the guidelines, but if that were true, the agency would have taken its own advisory committee’s advice regarding seafood.
The guidelines’ big emphasis is on reducing calorie consumption and increasing exercise. Granted, combating obesity is important, but if Americans aren’t urged to take advantage of the clear benefits of eating seafood, they will continue to miss out on this protein’s important nutrients, which don’t clog their arteries or provide empty calories. It’s shameful that the general population has to wait another five years to see if the government will follow the advice and information experts have presented to them already.