Food, exercise and regular physical activity still key to American health

The American Cancer Society (ACS), American Diabetes Association (ADA), and American Heart Association (AHA) commend the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Agriculture (USDA) on the release of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. We applaud the agencies for taking the lead in providing evidence-based guidelines to help improve health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

We are encouraged by this new information from the federal government, as the new guidelines are consistent with the recommendations of our own organizations to help Americans lower their risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke through better diets, more physically active lifestyles and improved weight management. We commend DHHS and USDA for specifically emphasizing:

  • Increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains;
  • Decreased consumption of saturated fats and trans fatty acids;
  • The importance of choosing foods full of the nutrients we need;
  • The importance of calorie control;
  • Regular physical activity.

Now that these science-based guidelines are in place, promotion of these messages to consumers is a key next step. Our organizations are pleased to see the development of a consumer-friendly document, Finding Your Way to a Healthier You. This tool, which provides a quick overview in an easy-to-read format and communicates food consumption in terms of meaningful portion sizes, such as cups or ounces, is a valuable resource for people as they seek direction in achieving a healthy lifestyle.

Given the extraordinary increase in obesity in this country and compelling evidence that excess body weight increases the risk of many types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, we would recommend that subsequent consumer materials emphasize the importance of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

We also commend the Dietary Guidelines Committee for acknowledging that individual behavior change is influenced by many factors outside the control of the individual. Without promoting meaningful changes in schools, worksites and communities that increase the availability of and access to healthy food choices and opportunities for physical activity, our efforts to create long-term behavior change in individuals are not likely to be successful. We thank DHHS and USDA for their efforts and will continue to work with them to help improve health and reduce the risk of chronic disease for all Americans.

Last June, our three organizations joined forces to launch a joint public awareness campaign entitled “Everyday Choices for a Healthier Life™,” designed to raise awareness about the key messages that are addressed in the Guidelines. Our joint Web site, www.everydaychoices.org, features helpful tips and links to more information on healthy eating, physical activity, weight management, smoking cessation and recommended medical tests. Consumers can also call 1-866-399-6789 for more information.

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