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Americans still face dietary challenges

Despite recent success in developing broad dietary guidance and improving nutrition labeling policies, Americans still face considerable dietary challenges, according to recent research.

"Five out of the 10 leading causes of death for Americans relate to dietary practices: heart disease, some cancers, stroke, diabetes, and atherosclerosis," said Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, of the University of Hawaii's Cancer Research Center in Honolulu.

Glanz conducted an extensive review of dietary behavior change programs throughout the U.S. Her research indicates that programs that encourage dietary behavior change are most effective with individuals who are motivated by having or being at high risk for diet-related diseases. Glanz reports her findings in the November/December issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

"Controversies remain regarding diet-disease links, the magnitude of benefits expected with changing habits, and optimal quantitative advice," said Glanz. "But the potential public benefit from improved eating patterns, coupled with the low risk of adopting present guidelines, provides a stronger foundation than ever before to understand and encourage good nutrition."

"Funding for dietary change programs and research is typically categorized by disease," said Glanz. "This forces researchers into narrow models that limit what information to give and what endpoints to measure. It adds to consumer confusion."

Glanz points out emerging data that show that more Americans have become overweight during the last decade. The percentage of overweight teens increased (from 15 percent to 21 percent), as did the percentage of overweight adults (from 26 percent to 34 percent).

Some progress has been made. The Healthy People 2000 initiative reported a decrease during the last decade from 36 percent to 34 percent in the average percentage of calories from fat in people's daily diets, and a decline in average blood choles
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Contact: Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH
kglanz@hawaii.edu
808-586-3076
Center for the Advancement of Health
3-Jan-2000


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