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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 27, 2000
        New Guidelines Designed to Help Americans Eat Healthier

Today, in his weekly radio address, President Clinton will kick off the first National Nutrition Summit in over three decades with the release of the Fifth Edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, providing easily understood, science-based information to help Americans choose diets that promote good health. The President will also announce that this summer, the Department of Agriculture will propose to require nutrition labels on meat and poultry products in order to provide consumers with important information on fat, calorie and protein content. The new version of the guidelines and the proposed rule are designed to provide sound, easy-to-understand advice to help consumers build healthy diets for themselves and their families. These proposals build on the Clinton-Gore Administration's longstanding commitment to improve the nation's nutritional health.

MILLIONS OF AMERICANS NEED TO IMPROVE THEIR DIETS. While studies indicate that Americans are eating better now than they were in the late 1980s, tens of millions of Americans have poor diets and are overweight. Specific concerns include:

One in three non-elderly adults are now overweight. Fifty-eight million American adults ages 20 through 74 are overweight, and the number of overweight Americans increased from 25 to 33 percent between 1980 and 1991.

One in five children are at risk of being overweight. Ten percent of children are overweight or obese. The number of overweight children has doubled over the past 15 years, and 70 percent of overweight children aged 10 to 13 will be overweight and obese adults. Most of this increase has taken place in recent years; 10 percent of children, 4 to 5 years of age, were overweight in 1988 through 1994, compared with 5.8 percent in 1971 through 1974. Recent studies indicate that this trend is associated with low levels of physical activity rather than increased food consumption.

Obesity is linked to an increased incidence of chronic disease. Obesity is a risk factor for diseases such as coronary heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Over $68 billion is spent each year on the direct health care costs related to obesity, representing 6 percent of the nation's health care expenditures in 1999.

Almost 90 percent of Americans have diets that need improvement. The Healthy Eating Index shows that 88 percent of Americans have diets that are poor or need improvement. Only 26 percent of people meet the daily dietary recommendation for dairy products, and less than 20 percent meet the daily recommendation for fruits. In particular, teenagers and people with low incomes tend to have lower quality diets.

Many illnesses can be prevented or mediated through regular physical activity. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing some of the leading causes of illness and death in the United States, including heart disease, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes. Physical activity has been demonstrated to reduce blood pressure and symptoms of anxiety and depression while maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and joints. More than 60 percent of adults do not engage in the recommended amount of physical activity, and approximately 25 percent of adults are not physically active at all.

PRESIDENT CLINTON ANNOUNCES MAJOR NEW ACTIONS TO HELP AMERICANS EAT HEALTHIER. Today, President Clinton will kick-off the first Nutrition Summit in three decades and announce new actions to assist Americans in improving their diets and overall health. Today, the President will:

Announce the first National Nutrition Summit in 30 years. To address the new nutritional challenges facing the country, experts from around the country will meet next week in Washington, D.C. for the first National Nutrition Summit in three decades. This summit, sponsored by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, will explore issues related to the continuing problem of hunger; the dramatic increase in overweight and obese Americans; and the role of nutrition and physical activity in health promotion and chronic disease prevention.

Release the Fifth Edition of the Dietary Guidelines. Revised every five years, these guidelines are the cornerstone of national nutrition policy and are used to determine the content of School Lunch and other Federal nutrition programs, placing the latest science in an easy-to-understand format for American consumers. In addition to more strongly emphasizing the need to eat whole grain foods, the latest version of the guidelines:

Announce USDA's plans to require nutrition labeling for meat and poultry products, including all ground or chopped meat. To provide consumers with additional information to help them make more informed food choices, the Department of Agriculture will propose this summer to require nutrition labeling for meat and poultry. Retailers would be required to provide nutrition information through product labels or at the point of purchase by posting signs or making information readily available in brochures or leaflets. The required information would include fat, calories and cholesterol content. Providing such information currently is voluntary, but fewer than 60 percent of retailers last year did so.

CLINTON-GORE ADMINISTRATION HAS A LONGSTANDING COMMITMENT TO IMPROVING NUTRITION. The Clinton-Gore Administration has implemented several new initiatives to improve the nutritional health of Americans, including: increasing enrollment in Women Infants and Children (WIC), from 5.4 million per month in 1993 to 7.3 million per month in 1999, which provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, and access to health care to low-income pregnant women, new mothers, and infants and children at nutritional risk; the creation of the After School Snacks Program, which provides children with healthy meals in the critical hours after the end of the school day; and the release of the Food Guide Pyramid for young children, providing a nutritional roadmap for children between the ages of two and six.