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Health & Nutrition:
Human Nutrition

Current Situation

Better food choices translate into a healthier America. According to the 1988 Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health, for the two out of three adult Americans who do not smoke and do not drink excessively, personal food choices have more influence on long-term health than any other factor. Food sustains us, is pleasurable, and is necessary for life. However, what we eat may affect our risk of suffering chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer--all leading causes of death.

According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity account for at least 300,000 deaths each year in the United States. These two lifestyle factors also increase one's chances for developing chronic, killer diseases--which are among the most prevalent, costly and most preventable of all health problems.

Cardiovascular disease (which primarily includes heart disease and stroke) causes more than 40% of all deaths in the United States, killing more than 950,000 Americans each year. In 1997, cardiovascular diseases were responsible for more than 11,000 deaths in Mississippi, making the state first nationwide in the the number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease costs the nation more than $259 billion annually, including health expenditures and lost productivity resulting from illness and death.

Cancer will kill more than 550,000 people this year--more than 1,500 people every day. In 1997, cancer killed more than 5,800 Mississippians. The annual cost of cancer in the United States is $104 billion.

Diabetes is the nation's (and Mississippi's) seventh leading killer and is responsible for more than 169,000 deaths among Americans each year. In 1997, over 500 Mississippians died from diabetes. When diabetes does not kill, the costs of living with the disease can be enormous. The American Diabetes Association estimates that diabetes is responsible for more than $92 billion annually in medical care and lost wages.

A disturbing report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that Americans weigh more than ever, even though the opportunities for making positive health choices are greater than ever. The 1997 report found that 35 percent of Americans are overweight today as compared to 25 percent just two decades ago. In addition, a 1996 report found that Mississippians ranked second nationwide in the number of overweight adults.

Obesity is a major risk factor in developing today's chronic killer diseases. The lifestyle factors of poor diet and lack of physical activity combine to cause Mississippi's obesity problem. Dietary factors most often associated with these killer diseases are excessive consumption of fats and food energy (calories).

Even small dietary changes can provide big benefits. Both the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have estimated the benefits of improved diets. Looking only at fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, the agencies estimated that even reductions of only about 1 percent in the intake of total fat and saturated fat and 0.1 percent cholesterol would prevent more than 56,000 cases of heart disease and cancer, avoid more than 18,000 deaths, and save more than 117,000 life-years over 20 years. They further estimated that the medical savings associated with these benefits totaled $0.8 billion. (This does not include losses in productivity or other losses due to pain and suffering.)

Consumers have clearly made changes in their eating habits over the last two decades. Ninety-two percent of the food shoppers who were interviewed for the 1995 annual survey by the Food Marketing Institute reported having changed their eating habits to make their diets more healthful. Yet a study by USDA's Economic Research Service indicated that most Americans have had difficulty making many of the dietary changes needed to meet federal nutrition guidelines. On average, most Americans are not meeting recommended servings for most of the Food Guide Pyramid's five major food groups, particularly fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, while consuming excess calories from fats, oils, and sweets.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I am interested in information about how to eat right. Can you help me?

Are some of the Dietary Guidelines more important than others?

What does diet mean?
What is the Food Guide Pyramid?

The Food Guide Pyramid gives a range for the number of servings to eat from each food group. How do I know how many servings are right for me?

The Breads, Cereals, Rice, and Pasta group of the Food Guide Pyramid says healthy Americans need 6 to 11 servings from that group each day. I can't eat that much!

I thought bread was fattening. Why do I have to eat 6 to 11 servings from the breads, cereals, rice and pasta group each day?

I heard that your diet is a "risk factor" related to several chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, or some cancers.   What is a "risk factor?"

I saw a television advertisement about a new diet to lose weight. How do I know if this is a good diet?

Do those diets to lose a pound a day work?
What is the difference between sodium and salt?
How can I reduce the sodium in my diet?
What are some good low sodium cookbooks I could use?
What foods contain cholesterol?
How do I lower the cholesterol in my diet?
Does margarine contain less fat than butter?

I know my family doesn't eat enough vegetables. Do you have any ideas for serving them that might help?

Why are dry beans and peas good for you?

What are carbohydrates? Why are they important in the diet?

I am confused about the role of fiber in the diet. Why is fiber important? What foods are good sources of fiber?

What are whole grains?
Does eating too much sugar cause diabetes?
What are some good diabetic cookbooks I could use?
What foods are high in iron?
Should I take supplements?

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MSUcares Human Nutrition publications

Nutrition News & Views Newsletter
Nutrition News & Views is intended as a source of up-to-date information on food and nutrition related topics. It is designed for use primarily by Cooperative Extension Service county personnel in Mississippi.


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Other Human Nutrition Information

The Food Allergy Network

American Cancer Society

American Diabetes Association
Do Your Level Best

Dietary Guidelines
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Food Guide Pyramid
Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children
Tips for Using the Food Guide Pyramid for
Young Children - 2 to 6 years old
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA)

Exercise/Physcial Activity
CDC Guidelines for School and Community Health Programs to Promote Physical Activity Among Youth

Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health

Dairy Foods
Dairy Council of Florida

American Egg Board
Egg Nutrition Center

Fats & Oils/Fat Replacers
ADA: ERM: Are Trans Fatty Acids OK?

Fish & Seafood
Seafood Information and Resources
National Fisheries Institute

Food Additives
Monosodium Glutamate(MSG)

Food Biotechnology
Backgrounder on Biotechnology
Biotechnology Information Center

Food Costs
Cost of Food at Home Estimated for Food Plans at Four Cost Levels

Food Labels
Food Labeling, Nutrition, and Dietary Supplements
Daily Values

Food Safety & Preservation
Food and Food Products

Fruits & Vegetables
5 A Day

Ingredient Substitutions/Equivalents
Ingredient Substitutions
Ingredient Substitutions and Equivalents

Meat & Poultry
American Meat Institute
National Broiler Council
National Cattleman's Beef Association
National Pork Producers Council

Nutritional Composition
Fast Food Finder
USDA's Nutrient Data Base for Standard Reference

Other Foods

Sugars/Sugar Replacers
Low-Calorie Sweeteners: Adding Reduced-Calorie Delights to a Healthful Diet

Fraud, Quackery
National Council Against Health Fraud

1999 National Health Observances
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System
Consumer Information Center
1998-1999 Consumer's Resource Handbook
Federal Trade Commission
Food and Consumer Services (USDA)
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Center for Food Safetly & Applied Nutrition
Food and Nutrition Information Center, National Agricultural Library
Index of Food & Nutrition Internet Resources
Healthy People 2010
Indian Health Service (IHS) (DHHS)

Heart Disease
American Heart Association (AHA)
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH)

Maternal/Infant/Child Nutrition/Breastfeeding
La Leche League(breastfeeding)
Nutrition Expedition(for K - 12 teachers)
USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center

Older Adults
American Association of Retired Persons
Better Eating for Better Aging

National Osteoporosis Foundation

Other Nutrition, Food & Related Sites
American Dietetic Association
National Nutrition Month, 2000
International Food Information Center (IFIC)

Sports Nutrition
The Physician and Sportsmedicine
SportsMed Web

Team Nutrition
Team Nutrition Home Page Food and Consumer Services

Vegetarian Resource Group

Weight Management
Nutrition and Obesity

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