White House: Standards should stress eating less bad fat but more good fat


Thursday, May 29th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) _ The White House says new government nutrition guidelines should tell consumers to cut back on foods like french fries made with artery-clogging fats and eat more fish and other foods that contain healthy fats.

The White House Office of Management and Budget recommended in a letter Wednesday that the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services emphasize eating foods with omega-3 fats that lower the risk of heart disease and warn against eating trans fatty acids, which increase the risk.

John D. Graham, who heads OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs _ the Bush administration's regulatory watchdog _ wrote that current standards fall short, targeting ``only the reduction of saturated fat and cholesterol, with only a brief reference to the risks from trans fatty acids and benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.''

OMB issued the recommendations just as the government is working on new guidelines.

Schools in the federal lunch program rely on two sets of guidelines when planning meals served to 28 million low-income children every school day: The Food Guide Pyramid, an educational graphic that prioritizes categories of food and hasn't been changed since 1992; and the dietary guidelines that are updated every five years, most recently in 2000.

New versions of both are due out in 2005, but it's too soon to tell whether they'll include any of the OMB's recommendations, said Alisa Harrison, spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department.

The government is selecting experts for an advisory panel to help draft new guidelines.

``They will consider evidence not only for the relationships between diet and cardiovascular disease but for all aspects of health,'' Harrison said.

The government already is being bombarded with advice from the food industry, consumer groups, experts, lawmakers and the general public on what the guidelines should say.

HHS spokesman Bill Pierce said some people are suggesting that officials use popular plans like the Atkins diet, which promotes eating more protein and less carbohydrates, as the basis for new standards. But ``we don't recommend diets,'' Pierce said. The guidelines are intended to tell consumers ``the kinds of foods one should be eating and why.''

Worries over trans fatty acids have increased over the years as more studies show that eating them can clog arteries since they lower the level of good cholesterol, HDL, while raising the level of bad cholesterol, LDL.

Trans fat is in hydrogenated oils, grease, shortening and an array of baked and fried goods.

The harmful fat is hidden from consumers because it is not labeled on products. That will change soon. The Food and Drug Administration, under pressure from the White House, is planning to require companies to list the amount of the harmful fat in their products.

The FDA also is looking at putting a warning on foods that have trans fat, which consumer groups support but the food industry opposes. Manufacturers argue that a warning would confuse consumers and cause them eat more saturated fat, which also is unhealthy.

Dr. Marvin Lipman, chief medical adviser for Consumers Union, welcomed OMB's recommendations for changing the dietary guidelines.

``I think there is emerging evidence that omega-3 fatty acids help the heart, and I think the recommendation which is forthcoming from Health and Human Services, from the FDA, is that omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent a second heart attack,'' he said.