New report provides real answers in era of health advice overload
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
The recent release of the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has American health nuts jumping for joy. This 571-page report of medical and scientific research promotes a "culture of health," in which a healthy lifestyle is "easy, accessible, affordable and normative."
This may finally be the answer to our collective cry for sound health advice. Think about it. Easy: Who doesn't like easy? Affordable: Healthy for the mind, body and wallet. Accessible: Is this a dream?
The report is also the groundwork for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, set to be released later this year. The first edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released in 1980 and has since then been updated, reviewed and jointly published every five years by the Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
But do people even know that this Dietary Guidelines for Americans resource exists?
The truth is Americans in the digital age are generally confused about their health. New studies emerge every minute, it seems, on the greatest options for the healthiest lifestyle. Not to mention trendy diets, cleanses, testimonies on Facebook, the how-to on Pinterest — talk about a health advice overload. And often the wrong advice, for that matter.
"Americans are constantly bombarded with heath information. It can be an arduous process to comb through all this information to find the recommendations that best serve an individual and their unique health and wellness needs," said Jenn Likover, a registered dietitian with a master's degree in clinical nutrition.
"Many of my patients find this information overload paralyzing. One diet recommendation often contradicts another, making it difficult to decide where to start and what exactly to do in order to adopt a healthier diet."
The report highlights major diet-related health problems, preventable by change in lifestyle. To put that into perspective, about half of American adults — 117 million people — have preventable chronic diseases that relate to poor diet and physical inactivity.
This fact also hits hard: Two-thirds of adults and one-third of children/youth are overweight or obese. The report emphasizes that the focus needs to be redistributed from just the healthcare system and disease treatment to actual prevention.
"The United States has slipped down the worldwide list of healthy nations the past few years, mainly due to our obesity epidemic," said Peggy Ostrander, a doctor of nursing practice and family nurse practitioner. "Most people want to be healthy, but just don’t know where to start."
Here's a perfect example. Just recently, a friend on Facebook posted, "Looking to make some health changes. Any recommendations on meals that are easy and affordable? Or a plan of sorts? Counting everything and planning out my meals weekly is not really what I am looking for. Any help would be appreciated!"
There were more than 20 comments in response. "Try Paleo!" "You heard of AdvoCare?" "Herbal Life changed my life."
But not one comment said, "Oh my gosh, girl, I just read the Scientific Report of the 2015 DGAC from cover to cover in preparation for the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Changed my life!"
While reaching out on social media for health advice isn't necessarily the best option, Ostrander says "the support of friends and family helps many people stay on track and focused on their goals."
So where should we begin? Evidence observed by the 2015 DGAC highlights that a healthy diet is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts. This should be balanced with moderation in alcohol, red and processed meat, and sugar-sweetened foods, drinks, refined grains.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also features SuperTracker, which is a great resource for tracking food and physical activity.
The release of this report comes at the perfect time for confused millennials. It provides concrete answers right smack in the middle of the digital age and the time of health information overload. Americans need to stop asking each other for help and start reading what's scientifically and medically proven.
There are a billion pieces of lifestyle advice. Where you begin is here with science-based guidance on nutrition and physical activity, and the many tools offered to transition you to healthier choices. It's time to go back to the basics of healthy living.
"Simple changes can have a large impact on reducing your risk of certain diseases," Likover said.
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