Monday, March 17, 2014

Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts - On the Label

Here is Part 3 (and the final) of a mini-series on the proposed Nutrition Facts label makeover.

I talked about the Dietary Guidelines in a previous blog and how they are the basis for food and nutrition policy in the US.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) discuss nutrients of concern in the American diet.  These are nutrients for which the US population is consuming inadequate amounts and which are associated with the risk of chronic disease.  USDA highlights calcium, potassium, Vitamin D and fiber.  FDA calls them  nutrients of public health significance and includes calcium, potassium vitamin D, and iron. Calcium and iron already are required on nutrition facts labeling; vitamin D and potassium are being proposed to be added to the list of mandatory nutrients. This is good.

Vitamin D is important for its role in bone development and general health, and intakes among some population groups are inadequate.   Adequate potassium intake is beneficial in lowering blood pressure and intakes of this nutrient are also low among some population groups.

Listing Vitamins A and C will now be voluntary - we are doing quite well with getting adequate amounts of those vitamins in our diet.  Interestingly, fiber, USDA's fourth nutrient of concern, is not addressed in the proposal.

Some other minor changes in the proposed label regs include formatting, such as moving % Daily Value (%DV) percentages from the right to the left.  Daily Values (DV) are either intended to tell you the max you should have, as with Saturated Fat, or the minimal target amount you should have, as with Iron.  Daily Values (DV) are used to calculate the percent daily value (%DV) which is what you see on the label.  This puts the amount in the food whose label you are looking at as a percent of the typical (or mythical) 2000 calorie per day diet.

Again, here is a picture of the proposed label.  So, below, 8g of Total Fat is 12% of the max amount of Total Fat someone on a 2000 calorie per day should have.  Not all nutrients are linked to calories.  Below, the 160 mg of Sodium is 7% of the max amount of Sodium most Americans should consume per day-at any calorie level.

I promise I will not show you the math behind both of those calculations.  I'm not that kind of blogger. Just know that there is some good info coming to a Nutrition Facts label near you.  And it is up to you to know how to use that info.

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