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September 6, 2002

New Report on Dietary Reference Intakes Includes Recommendation for More Exercise

Food and Nutrition Board Report Replaces Recommended Dietary Allowances Last Updated in 1989

A new report on Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for macronutrients (e.g., protein, fat, carbohydrates), compiled by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board, was released Thursday, September 5 at the National Academies of Science (NAS) in Washington, DC.

Benjamin Caballero, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has served on the Food and Nutrition Board since 1997 and was one of 21 scientists on the macronutrient panel who contributed to this volume of the new Dietary Reference Intakes.

Among the most notable new data to emerge is the recommendation that adults should exercise at least one hour a day to prevent disease and maintain health. Dr. Caballero chaired the energy panel, which analyzed biochemical measurements of energy intake and expenditure for healthy adults. The panel based the one-hour daily exercise recommendation on the reality of the number of calories healthy adults expend in a day. While this recommendation is a significant increase from the 1996 Surgeon General’s recommendation of 30 minutes of exercise on most days, Dr. Caballero stressed that it can be achieved through a combination of active periods throughout the day, including short walks, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and performing household chores. 

The macronutrient report, one of seven DRI volumes that update the RDAs from more than a decade ago, is more than 1,000 pages long and is based on the review of more than 7,000 scientific references regarding protein, amino acids, fat and individual fatty acids, phospholipids, cholesterol, complex carbohydrates, simple sugars, dietary fiber, energy intake, and energy expenditure.  Although it sets ranges of recommended consumption for fats, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and sugar, it should not be confused with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Updated guidelines will be issued from the USDA based on the Food and Nutrition Board’s findings. 

Nonetheless, as the arrival of the new DRIs coincides with an acute societal curiosity about issues such as how carbohydrate and fat intake affect weight loss, how saturated fat affects chronic disease risk, and what role, if any, sugar and refined carbohydrates should play in a healthy diet, many may not want to wait for the abridged version of this report to arrive.

The Center for Human Nutrition

The National Academies of Science

Media contact for the Center for Human Nutrition: Kelly Blake @ 410-614-4066 or kblake@jhsph.edu.
Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham @ 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.