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US tarts up food pyramid

April 20, 2005 By Jessica Ebert This article courtesy of Nature News.

Diagram for dietary advice now includes exercise.

The US Department of Agriculture has released an interactive pyramid symbol to encapsulate their current advice on healthy diet.

The icon, which replaces a food pyramid from 1992, aims to be more flexible than its predecessor. And for the first time it includes advice on adding exercise to daily life, represented by the image of a person hiking up the side of the pyramid.

Both old and new pyramids incorporate the same categories of food. But where the old scheme had a standard range of recommended daily servings for each category, the new one allows users to get dietary advice based on their age, gender and level of exercise (see What happened to mypyramid-gov?).

"MyPyramid is about the ability of Americans to personalize their approach when choosing a healthier lifestyle that balances nutrition and exercise," says Mike Johanns, agriculture secretary.

This is a missed opportunity.
Margo Wootan
director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington

In the new scheme, orange stands for whole grains, green for vegetables, red for fruits, yellow for oils, blue for milk, and purple for beans and meat.

The interactive diagram is meant to incorporate recommendations from the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans released in January. The guidelines encourage people to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to eat less salt, and to engage in regular physical activity.

But some consumer advocates and health experts argue that the pyramid doesn't go far enough to communicate the guidelines' advice on healthy food choices.

"This is a missed opportunity," says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest. "The Department of Agriculture has dodged the politically difficult message of letting people know which foods we need to eat less of."


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