New dietary guidelines add exercise

Eating well

January 23, 1996|By Colleen Pierre | Colleen Pierre,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The recent release of the "1995 Dietary Guidelines for Americans" brought no big surprises, but it does offer some powerful information.

Published in a 40-page booklet, the guidelines "are a road map, a handy tool, a quick check list" to seeing how you're doing nutritionally, according to Edith Hogan, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "These guidelines demonstrate that science is evolutionary, not revolutionary."

Eat a variety of foods, choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables and fruits, and moderate in salt and sugar are messages we've grown accustomed to. "What is new," she says, "is that exercise is included as part of the dietary guidelines for the first time."

I can only rejoice at this breakthrough. Nutrition and activity are intimately bound.

Exercise helps muscles accept blood sugar for energy and action and increases your bones' receptivity to the calcium you get from food.

Exercise also helps maintain muscle mass and burn extra calories so you get to enjoy more food without getting fat. Exercise is vital in preventing unnecessary weight gain and in maintaining weight loss. And the guidelines note that gaining weight in adulthood increases risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, breathing problems and other illnesses.

So the dietary guidelines recommend that you "try to do 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity on most -- preferably all -- days of the week. Moderate activity includes walking briskly (3-4 mile/hr), home care or general cleaning, conditioning or general calisthenics, racket sports like table tennis, mowing the lawn, golf (pulling a cart or carrying clubs), home repair or painting, fishing (standing/casting), jogging, swimming, cycling (10 mph), gardening, leisurely canoeing (2 to 4 mph) and dancing.

Does that mesh with your idea of moderate, or does that sound like a workout to you? Moderate is a wimpy word that really needs to have well-defined numbers attached to it. And the alcohol guideline is no exception.

On the plus side, the guidelines note, "Alcoholic beverages have been used to enhance the enjoyment of meals by many societies throughout human history," and "Current evidence suggests that moderate drinking is associated with a lower risk for coronary heart disease in some individuals."

On the negative side they note that excessive consumption:

* Supplies calories but few or no nutrients.

* Alters judgment, leads to dependency and creates serious health problems.

* Increases risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, some cancers, accidents, violence, suicides, birth defects and early death.

* Causes cirrhosis of the liver, inflammation of the pancreas, damage to brain and heart and malnutrition.

They also point out that some people should not drink at all, including children and adolescents, people who are unable to restrict drinking to moderate levels, women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, anyone planning to drive or take part in activities that require attention or skill, and anyone taking prescription or over-the-counter medications (because alcohol alters the effectiveness or toxicity of medicines).

For a copy of the dietary guidelines, send your name, address and 50 cents by check or money order (payable to Superintendent of Documents) to Consumer Information Center, Dept. 378-C, Pueblo, Colo. 81009.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

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