WASHINGTON (B)--"Moderation in all things"--with an emphasis on a balanced diet an exercise--is the key to the new U.S. dietary guidelines, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala announced May 30.

"These new guidelines continue to emphasize balance, moderation, and variety in food choices," Shalala said May 30 at the opening of the National Nutrition Summit. "They also offer more practical advice and scientific information than ever before to help American consumers make the smartest possible decisions when it comes to what we eat."

Issued every five years since 1980, the 2000 guidelines stress the importance of regular physical activity, lower intake of saturated fats, sugar, alcohol and cholesterol, and increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Only 12% of Americans eat a proper, balanced diet, Glickman said, and nearly half of all U.S. adults and 10% of children are overweight. For the first time in their history, the dietary guidelines use the body mass index (BMI), a measure of how much of the body's weight is made up on fat.

The guidelines consider a BMI of 18 to 25% optimal, with an index of 25 to 30 being overweight and an index above 30 being obese.

While the new guidelines suggest lower consumption of meat, processed foods, salt and refined sugar, no foods were "singled out" for specific condemnation and no additional onus was placed on consumption of junk foods or fast foods. "Not with this president," Shalala said.

Glickman said that it was not the job of the U.S. government to act as the "sugar police," and that he was very reluctant to do more than provide the information that allows "people to make their own choices."

A handful of protesters outside the meeting advocating a vegetarian diet denounced the inclusion of meat in the guidelines. One person, angry that meat was included, threw an apple pie at Glickman, hitting the secretary at the podium.

USDA and HHS will also study how people make their eating choices, Glickman said, as one of finding out how the two agencies can best promote their dietary advice to the U.S. public. Glickman also stressed the need for increased nutritional education in U.S. public schools.

Both agencies plan to begin in-depth studies of popular diets to see if there is any scientific justification for the claims made by promoters of high-carbohydrate or high-protein diets.

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