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Quotes from the speakers at the National Nutrition Summit Roundtable.

Read more about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans



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National Nutrition Summit

Top nutritionists, health and fitness experts, government officials, academics, consumer advocates and industry representatives gathered in Washington for the first National Nutrition Summit in more than 30 years. In tandem with the summit, the government unveiled its latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans and a host of initiatives to tackle hunger and obesity.

"On the one hand we have millions of people who sometimes don't even know where their next meal is coming from. On the other hand, 55 percent of the American people are overweight or obese, one in five of them children. These problems are two sides of the same coin," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman told the summit.

"For millions of families, when they don't have enough money to buy food, they go hungry. But, when they have only a little money, they tend to buy low-cost foods which may or may not have all the nutrients they need. So our challenge isn't only to ensure that people have enough food to eat, but that they have the resources and access to enough of the right foods," he said.

Glickman said his department plans to spend $20 million to research why people are making the food and exercise choices they do.

Four of the nation's leading killers — heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, and stroke — are linked to diet and lack of physical exercise, leading to some 300,000 deaths a year. In 1969, when the first national nutrition summit was held, obesity among children wasn't on the radar screen. Today, obesity among kids has doubled, and obesity among adults has shot up 50 percent in the last two decades.

At the same time, government officials lashed out at popular diets, saying they were no solution to the nation's weight problem.

"When it comes to crash diets and fad diets, the guidelines are clear — stop doing them. They won't last," admonished U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. "Instead, take the weight off slowly and steadily through a powerful combination of sensible eating and physical activity."

USDA is going to examine the effects of fad diets, which consumers spend billions of dollars on every year, with initial findings due in September. Also coming down the nutrition pipeline, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher is slated to hold workshop in the fall to develop a national action plan to address the obesity epidemic.

There was also big news for parents and young children. The government rolled out new pediatric growth charts, the first update in more than 20 years. The charts have new BMI measure (see our Healthy Weight Calculator more on the BMI for adults) that can pinpoint children who have the potential to become overweight down the road as early as age two. That means parents will have a chance to change their eating habits before a weight problem ever develops.

Great Adventures in Food, by founder and CEO Ellen Haas is full of great tips to turn eating well into family fun.

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