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What Will the Next Food Pyramid Look Like?

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

Every five years, the Department of Health and Human
Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture jointly issue
the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, including the food pyramid.

The food pyramid is based on the USDA's research on what
foods Americans eat, what nutrients are in these foods, and how
to make food choices that promote good health. Many nutrition
experts are expecting some significant changes to the familiar
food pyramid in the next set of guidelines, scheduled to be
released in 2005.

Elisabetta Politi, nutrition manager at the Duke University
Medical Center's Diet
and Fitness Center
, says there may actually be multiple
pyramids, customized to address specific nutrition needs.

"The pyramids are going to be tailored to the individual,"
says Politi. "A sedentary 70-year-old woman doesn't need to
have the same recommendation as a very active 30-year-old man.
I expect there will be changes based on level of activity, age
and gender."

Politi expects some of the changes to also reflect the
growing popularity of low-carbohydrate programs, such as the
Atkins and South Beach diets. "Probably the recommendations are
going to be geared toward carbohydrates, but we really cannot
put carbohydrates all in the same food group. Probably the base
of the pyramid is going to be changed. It seems there is
consensus in the scientific community that, although grains and
starches are part of a healthy diet, we don't need as many as
the food pyramid currently indicates."

Politi also thinks the number of recommended daily calories
may be lowered, due to America's obesity crisis.

"What has to change is the eating habits of Americans," says
Politi. "It's a very complex issue. The market forces are
really strong. They push consumers in one direction and,
unfortunately, fruits and vegetables are not promoted
enough."

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