Food Guide Pyramid points the way to good nutrition


I have high hopes for the new Food Guide Pyramid recently -- and finally -- launched by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Many people were shocked by its $1 million price tag.

But, really, that's a small price to pay for all we expect it to do.

The Food Guide Pyramid is a graphic representation of eating habits that will help promote health and prevent chronic disease, as outlined by the 1990 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

In a nation mired in the quicksand of strangulating health care costs, an ounce of prevention may save the day.

In fact, the American Cancer Society believes that one out of three cancers is food-related, so will invest even greater efforts in prevention.

And the 1988 Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health notes that of the ten leading causes of death in the United States, five are diet-related. And the annual costs are staggering:

* Coronary heart disease: $49 billion.

* Stroke-related disabilities: $11 billion.

* Cancer: $72 billion.

* Diabetes: $13.8 billion.

* Osteoporosis: $10 billion.

Certainly, not all these costs are attributable to diet alone, but dietary excesses and imbalances contribute to these and other problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, dental diseases and digestive disorders.

Together they impose a substantial burden of personal illness and shared health-care costs.

The Food Guide Pyramid is a visual communicator of good choices that will help reduce this burden.

During the last and most expensive year of its preparation, the Pyramid was fine-tuned, to assure its effectiveness with children, low income, lesser educated and minority groups, who are most at risk.

Now we can get on with it. And not a moment too soon.

I am continually amazed by how few people eat two fruits and three vegetables on a regular basis.

I ask everybody.

I've asked my nutrition seminar groups. I've asked my seatmates on airplanes. I've asked my dental hygienist. I've even asked my Maytag repairman.

Hopefully, they'll all get the message soon, and begin to make changes for a healthier, happier future.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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