Over the past several decades, emerging scientific evidence about health and nutrition has resulted in changing food consumption patterns in the United States. Six out of ten consumers were making a major change in their diets, and another survey reported that nutrition was second only to taste in importance to shoppers. The changing food habits are related to the increased awareness that diet can be related to some of the leading causes of death—heart disease, cancer, and diabetes—as well as to other common health conditions like osteoporosis, diverticulosis, and obesity. While heart disease accounts for most of the deaths in the each year, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the most countries, with the amount of fat in the diet being the number one dietary factor related to cancer. Overweight is one of the biggest health problems encountered so far.
In an effort to reduce dietary risk factors for some of the major health conditions, several dietary guides were shared to all. Two of these are the Dietary Guidelines and the Food Guide Pyramid.
The emphasis on adjusting fat and other dietary factors in the diet was then enforced. Dietary Guidelines for Infants are also available and take into account the differing nutrient needs at this time of life.
The Dietary Guidelines for healthy adults list seven dietary recommendations, encouraging consumers to avoid too much fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, sodium, and alcohol. They stress eating a variety of foods, balancing intake with physical exercise, and consuming adequate starch and fibre through grain products, vegetables, and fruits. No numerical minimums or maximums are provided and no recommendations are given in terms of caffeine or artificial sweeteners. The Dietary Guidelines define healthful dietary habits such as:
- Eat a variety of foods.
- Balance the food you eat with physical activity. Maintain or improve your weight.
- Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits.
- Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
- Choose a diet moderate in sugars.
- Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium.
- If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.