Tazima David

Wendy Reinhardt, R.D.

The Dietary Guidelines: Where Food Science and Nutrition Converge
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans asks consumers to look at food from a different perspective—from the vantage point of health promotion and weight management. The revised Dietary Guidelines, released on January 12, 2005, and available at www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines, include a shift in focus from nutrient adequacy to weight management and reducing the risk of chronic disease.

This shift is consistent with the many articles and reports documenting the increasing rates of chronic disease and overweight among Americans and the need to address these trends.

According to consumer attitudinal research by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, many consumers state that they strive to live a healthful lifestyle but have trouble translating theory into practice. Despite their desire to achieve a healthful diet, many consumers feel over-stressed and over-scheduled. They value convenience, accessibility, and taste and often choose foods based on these criteria. Consumers state that they need "real-life" solutions that assist them in making a healthful lifestyle "easy" and "doable."

The new Dietary Guidelines set forth specific, science-based recommendations designed to help the public reach target nutrient levels and promote health. They clearly emphasize making choices that promote intake of nutrients vital to health through increased consumption of vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains. They also highlight reduced intakes of saturated and trans fats, added sugars, salt, and calories. With an emphasis on calories and weight management, they encourage selection of nutrient-dense foods as a means to meet nutrient intake goals while also maintaining caloric balance.

As information about public health and nutrition science evolves, so might the direction of food product development. Critical to this discussion is the clinical relevance of the foods we develop and their impact on health. Like consumers, food scientists are asked to balance many competing priorities—both Converge in the reformulation of existing products and in the development of new products. As food scientists, we are charged with meeting revised product specifications, yet we must also reconcile product functionality to preserve consumer acceptance. Still, the opportunity exists to present consumers with viable food science solutions that help them meet dietary recommendations while offering taste and convenience.

Developing such products can be challenging, especially with growing expectations for technologies to solve current conundrums, such as sodium and trans fat reduction. Sodium helps keep foods safe and enhances the flavor of the products in which it is used; however, dietary recommendations encourage reducing sodium intake to support cardiovascular health. With regard to trans fat reduction, regulatory discussions and consumer demands are driving industry toward zero levels. Efforts thus far reveal no easy answers as food scientists seek alternatives that preserve taste and functionality, do not increase saturated or total fat, and are available in volumes to meet production demands.

Where do food science and dietary recommendations converge? Those currently leading the way in the marketplace are setting new product profile targets in line with the Dietary Guidelines. Many companies already offer "healthy" product lines and "better-for-you" varieties of traditional products. Some companies are also using portion-control packaging, in combination with product development, to assist consumers with convenience and calorie reduction. As food scientists, it may help to ask the right questions and direct the discussion to develop quantifiable targets, define related objectives, and determine measures of success. Furthermore, initiating and maintaining an open dialogue between food scientists and nutrition scientists is essential in assuring that consumers have access to products that help them meet the Dietary Guidelines. Now and in the future, food scientists, alongside nutrition professionals, can take full advantage of this unique opportunity to develop "real-life" food science solutions to support and promote health.

by Tazima Davis
Program Coordinator
Nutrition and Food Science Communications,
International Food Information Council
Washington, DC 20036
[email protected]

Associate Director, Health Nutrition
International Food Information Council
Washington, DC 20036
[email protected]