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The Wrap on the Fads

Over the past four weeks, we have discovered that a fad diet is a diet that makes promises of weight loss or other health advantages such as fat loss and a longer life, but in many cases offer an unbalanced nutrition profile.  Fad diets are often restricted to certain foods and may work for a short while, but can be difficult to follow on a long-term basis.  They are often targeted at people who want to lose weight quickly without exercise, but sadly 98% of people who “fad diet”, gain the weight back within 5 years.

What we need to focus on is a true change towards healthy eating for a lifetime, versus quick weight loss schemes that may harm us more than help us.  When thinking of changing your lifestyle toward a healthy, sustainable diet, one thing we all should learn to do is properly read Nutrition Labels.

Nutrition Labels follow the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).  The RDA is the average daily level of intake considered sufficient by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%-98%) healthy people in each life-stage and sex group.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) was developed during World War II, by Lydia J. Roberts, Hazel Stiebeling, and Helen S. Mitchell, all part of a committee established by the United States National Academy of Sciences in order to investigate issues of nutrition that might “affect national defense”.

The committee was renamed the Food and Nutrition Board in 1941, after which they began to deliberate on a set of recommendations of a standard daily allowance for each type of nutrient. The standards would be used for nutrition recommendations for the armed forces, for civilians, and for overseas population who might need food relief. Roberts, Stiebeling, and Mitchell surveyed all available data, created a tentative set of allowances for “energy and eight nutrients”, and submitted them to experts for review.  The final set of guidelines, called RDAs for Recommended Dietary Allowances, were accepted in 1941.

The allowances were meant to provide superior nutrition for civilians and military personnel, so they included a “margin of safety.” Because of food rationing during the war, the food guides created by government agencies to direct citizens’ nutritional intake also took food availability into account.

The Food and Nutrition Board subsequently revised the RDAs every five to ten years.  In the early 1950s, the United States Department of Agriculture nutritionists made a new set of guidelines that also included the number of servings of each food group in order to make it easier for people to receive their RDAs of each nutrient.

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) was introduced in 1997 in order to broaden the existing system of the RDAs. DRIs were published over the period 1998 to 2001. In 2010, revised DRIs were published.  The current DRI values may differ from those used in Nutrition Labeling in the U.S. and Canada, which are based on Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).

Next week, we’ll delve into the Nutrition Facts Label (also known as the nutrition information panel).  The Nutrition Label is a label required on most packaged foods.  In the United States, the Nutritional Facts Label lists the percentage supplied that is recommended to be met, or to be limited, in one day based on a daily diet of 2,000 kilocalories (kcal).

But enough technical talk for now.  If we can learn to read these labels, we would be well on our way to making better and more informed decisions about the food we choose to eat.  Knowledge is power people.  Let’s learn something!