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Hidden Sugars in Foods, Too Little Physical Activity Are Big Problems

March 4, 2003 -- Krispy Kreme, Pepsi, Little Debbie, watch out. We need to cut way back on sugar and fat.

That's the bottom-line message from a new report, produced by more than 30 experts from two United Nations agencies -- the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The soft drink industry has had a hard time stomaching the recommendations.

Specifically, this is what the UN report says about a healthy diet: Carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, starches) should make up the bulk of total daily calories -- from 55% to 75%. Fat should be 15% -30% total calories (with 10% from saturated fat). Protein should be 10%-15%.

Sugar should be less than 10% of total daily calories, the report states.

Physical activity is a "key factor" in weight control, it states. "One hour per day of moderate-intensity activity such as walking, on most days of the week, is needed to maintain a healthy body weight, especially for those people who spend most of their time sitting down."

The need for physical activity -- that's something the National Soft Drink Association agrees is essential, spokesperson Sean McBride tells WebMD.

But the agency balks at the sugar recommendation, saying that it is "not based on the best available science," says McBride. "Our recommendation is in line with the National Academy of Sciences, which in September stated that no more than 25% of daily calories should come from sugars."

The obesity issue has two forks -- people are consuming too many calories from all types of foods, and they're not getting the proper amount of physical activity to burn those calories, McBride tells WebMD.

The American Dietetics Association supports the UN report. "It's extremely valid," says Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, an ADA spokeswoman based in Marietta, Ga.

She also backs the report's statements on sugar. "Soda consumption far exceeds milk consumption in this country," Zelman tells WebMD. "We're certainly not getting obese from drinking too much milk. However, I'm sure it's not just soft drinks that are to blame for sugar consumption. There are a lot of snack foods that have too much sugar and fat."

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