Leaders of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and FDA described efforts the Biden administration is making to help Americans eat healthier at the “Food Is Medicine Summit,” hosted by HHS on Wednesday.
In his opening remarks, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack shared that his commitment to healthy eating is personal.
“I’ve struggled with my weight all my life and with body image issues,” he said, recalling being made fun of by a teacher who said the reason he couldn’t complete a math problem was because he was fat.
“When you’ve had experiences like that, you understand and appreciate obesity in a completely different and personal context, and you understand the emotional toll that obesity can take,” he added.
Vilsack said that, despite growing up in an orphanage, he was lucky to have a lot of support as a child. In today’s environment where community is lacking, “that kid becomes isolated and some really serious consequences can occur.”
One of the efforts the USDA has made is to encourage all states to offer a summer feeding program. Vilsack said it’s hard to understand why 15 states will not participate in such programs.
FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, also spoke about efforts made by his agency to improve Americans’ eating habits.
“Number one on our list of urgent issues right now is getting more information [and] better information on the food packages themselves,” he said. The agency has already made some changes, such as the inclusion of added sugars on updated food labels.
Largely in response to the FDA’s efforts, manufacturers have begun to reduce the amount of trans fats in food, Califf noted. In addition, the agency is encouraging the food industry to commit to voluntary sodium reductions, and is working to more clearly define the term “healthy” on food labels.
It may sound crazy, and some will wonder why it has taken so long, he said. However, the goal in defining the claim that a food is “healthy” is to incentivize manufacturers to meet certain criteria, which could change “the underlying composition of the diet that people have … we’re very enthusiastic, and hope we’ll get that across the finish line.”
Shifting gears a little, Califf also talked about the role of physicians in educating patients.
“Amazingly to me, doctors are still listed by people as the most trusted source for nutritional information, which seems a little weird since medical education includes very little about nutrition,” he said.
While he would like to see that education improve, given the shift towards “team-based care,” the burden need not only fall on doctors, he noted.
Lastly, the commissioner cautioned that changes to food labels and improving the guidance patients receive will not alone be enough to compete with the food industry. More research is also needed, he stressed.
“If all we do is present facts so people can make decisions, we’re not going to win versus this sophisticated advertising that I learned a lot about [while working in Silicon Valley], which plays on emotions, and subliminal signals that cause people to be hungrier,” he said. “We’ve got to understand the connection between what’s in the food and what’s in this gut-brain axis that the [GLP-1 agonists] are now uncovering is a biological phenomenon. It’s not just willpower.”
“We’ve got to have the scientific basis, and then we’ve got to follow through,” he added.
Source link : https://www.medpagetoday.com/primarycare/dietnutrition/108545
Publish date : 2024-02-02 10:52:49
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