Update on Reading Nutrition Labels
I covered the ins and outs of nutrition labels in a previous article – see Understanding Nutrition Labels at http://www.mauromd.com/det-articles-17-Understanding-Nutrition-Labels.php.
After a few decades the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided, with a push from Michele Obama, to make some much needed changes. There are no really big changes, just a number of small ones that make it easier to understand and bring it somewhat up to date. There are still a lot more changes that could have been made but for that have a look at my previous article.
The proposed changes reflect new dietary recommendations, consensus reports, and national survey data, including the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutrient intake recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, and intake data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The FDA also obtained extensive input from a wide range of stakeholders, including the food industry.
So just what are these changes and how will they impact your understanding of what in the food and/or nutritional supplement you’re buying. To get the info directly go to http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm387114.htm. I’ll summarize the changes and of course add something you won’t find on the FDA site, my own two cents worth.
The info below is directly from the FDA site.
To get more detailed info on the info abbreviated info below from the FDA, including other proposed changes go to http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm387533.htm
What's Different? And Why?
The first thing consumers would notice is a greater emphasis—with larger and bolder type—on calories. "The number of calories is especially important to maintaining a healthy weight," says Leighton.
- For the first time, "Added Sugars" would be included on the label. On average, Americans eat 16 percent of their daily calories from sugars added during food production.
- And the calories from fat would no longer be listed. "We know that the type of fat is more important than the total amount of fat," says Kavanaugh. Total, saturated and trans fat will still be required.
- The number of servings per package would also be more prominent. And "Amount Per Serving," would now have the actual serving size listed, such as "Amount per cup."
- FDA proposes updating serving size requirements. These updates would reflect the reality of what people actually eat, according to recent food consumption data. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they "should" be eating.
- FDA would update Daily Values for various nutrients. Daily Values are used to calculate the Percent Daily Value (%DV) on the label, which helps consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total diet. In addition, the %DV would be shifted to the left of the label. FDA wants to help consumers visually and quickly put nutrient information in context.
- The amounts of potassium and Vitamin D would be required on the label. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, especially among women and the elderly. And potassium helps to lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension. "We have evidence that people are not consuming enough of these nutrients to protect against chronic diseases," says Leighton.
To get more detailed info on the above and other proposed changes go to http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm387533.htm.
The two example labels on the FDA site at http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm387114.htm#current contrast the two by showing some of the changes the FDA is proposing.
As you can see from these labels, the number of calories in a serving stands out a lot more and other than that the proposed label may or may not be easier to read or more helpful.
They could have done a lot more. But to keep things reasonable so that the Nutrition Facts have to be delivered as a separate pamphlet here are my suggestions.
On a minimalist level they could have kept the vitamin A and vitamin C and added vitamin B12 and even Zinc not only for the sake of vegetarians but for those of us who are serious about exercise, fitness, body composition and performance. As well the conversion of beta-carotene into vitamin A units is misplaced since coversion of the caretenoids into vitamin A varies with individuals. As such, vitamin A and beta carotene and other caretenoids should be listed separately. Also the insistance on folic acid and not folate as well does us a disservice and both should be allowed to be on the label.
Under the fat category they could have added monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat amounts and also omega-6 and more importantly the omega-3 levels, and even DHA and EPA amounts.
There are additions that should be added under the protein category. This listing, measured in grams, tells you how much total protein is in a single serving of a food. While there are differences in the biological value and effects of various protein sources, there is no distinction made for the type of protein or the source. Also amino acids and peptides (including glutamine peptides from hydrolyzed wheat gluten) are not included as they’re not considered whole food proteins. In my view this is a serious mistake as amino acids and peptides are the breakdown products of whole protein and as such should be considered in the total protein count.
And there are additions and changes that should be made under the carbohydrate category. You’ll find this info in detail in my previous article at http://www.mauromd.com/det-articles-17-Understanding-Nutrition-Labels.php. In short they need to include info on the kinds of carbs and fiber, as well as disguised carbohydrates (see my previous article).
And to make things easier to digest, I suggest they get rid of the whole bit about Percent Daily Values, at the very least as far as the macronutrients but also as far as micronutrients (or at least allow a range rather than a rather arbitrary and in most cases inadequate daily allowance). Not only is all of it rather arbitrary but anyone who knows anything about nutrition takes it seriously anyways since it’s a slippery slope at best.