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Government health diet ignores beverages.

In 1988, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report recommending what leading nutrients were believed as the most healthful die -- not for weight loss or other special purposes, but for overall good health and longevity. Chief tenet of this report was that American consume too much fats, oils and sugar, and it recommended a program to encourage people to reduce consumption of these food components. The Department of Agriculture representing our food suppliers was assigned the task of developing a poster campaign toward this end. A committee of leading nutritionists, after a year's work, came up with an "Eating Right Pyramid Graphic," which they believed projected the correct image in a single poster. This poster depicts what many leading nutritionists believe represents the most wholesome food groups that should be consumed for optimum health and longevity.

Foods are divided into five basic groups: cereal, dairy, fruits, vegetables, meat and other proteins. The base of the pyramid covering the healthiest food and the most to be consumed would be the category of cereals. The second level would be fruits and vegetables. The next level would be diminishing but in equal amounts of dairy and protein rich edibles. The apex suggests sparing use of fats, oils and sweets. No mention is made of beverages; negligible in nutritional value, they do have valuable dietary significance in promoting the educational objectives of this poster campaign.

The pyramid structure has created controversy among several commercial food factors and has delayed acceptance of the recommended visualization. The National Dairy Association and the meat industry strongly oppose this approach. Both claim placing these products at the top of the pyramid reduces the significance of these foods, which in turn will reduced their consumption below their desirable level. As key constituents of agriculture, the department is on the horns of a real dilemma and is reluctant to antagonize these two major food industries. Nutritionists, on the other hand, maintain that these food types should be emphasized and their consumption minimized.

The food apportionment discussed here refers to a health diet not to a weight loss program. A National Institute of Health study in a recent five year study of several reducing diets prescribed a very dim view of current reducing procedures. Three different programs were compared. Each was tested on a group of 75 women averaging 42 years of age, 5'5" tall, and weighing 234 pounds.

One group using diet alone was placed on a medically supervised diet of 800 calories per day. A second group was placed on behavior therapy with 1,200 calories per day. The third group used a combination of behavior therapy and 800 calories per day.

At the end of the supervised tests, 60-90% of participants had lost 10 kilograms (22 lbs) of body weight. After two years, over 75% of the diet alone and behavior therapy participants had regained their original weight, while 50% of the combination diet-therapy had maintained their loss. After five years all had regained 90% of their lost weight, while the behavior therapy participants had regained all of their vanished poundage.

A recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine (April 9, 1992), Dr. P. M. Suter of the University of Zurich highlighted the significance of beverage on the digestion of fat. This research study suggested that, when people drink alcoholic beverages with their meals, their bodies burn fat much more slowly than usual. And fat not burned is stored in conspicuous parts of the body where people usually put on weight.

This study was based on an experiment in which participants were placed on a diet that included the equivalent of three ounces of pure alcohol (six shots of whiskey or six beers) per day. This much alcohol reduced the combustion of fat by two-thirds. Apparently, the body prefers to digest the alcohol first and store fat for future need.

Beverages containing caffeine have the opposite effect from alcohol on the appetite and digestion. Where the latter acts as an aperitif and increases the appetite, coffee tends to reduce the desire for food, especially fatty food. And a cup of brew stimulates the digestion and reduces the storage of fat by the human body.

This all started as a result of a 1988 Surgeon General's report on how to make the American diet more salubrious. Most nutritionists currently feel that reducing dietary fat is the most important factor in this report as it relates to chronic and degenerative diseases. A committee was established to determine how to educate the public to this fact.

The committee unanimously agreed that the pyramidal presentation was the optimum, with a footnote added to "Use fats, oils and sweets sparingly". This is where controversy arose with commercial interests in meat and dairy industries whose aims lie in increasing sales of their products.

Although other factors like beverages could have significant effects in healthful human diet, they were not considered in this report. Instead of blindly accepting unscientific bias against coffee in the human diet, a more positive approach as to its value is merited.
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Title Annotation:dietary guide misses importance of caffeine-containing beverages in promoting a healthier diet
Author:Lee, Samuel
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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