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A Heart-Healthy Prescription for America's Food System

THURSDAY, May 2, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- An overhaul of the U.S. food system is needed so Americans can easily choose healthy foods, claims an advisory from the American Heart Association (AHA).

"Innovation in the food system is needed at multiple levels -- the food industry, agricultural industry, public health and medicine, policy, and among communities, worksites, schools, and families. In a healthy food system, the healthy choice would be the default choice," Cheryl Anderson, chairwoman of the advisory writing group, said in an AHA news release.

"To create a healthier and sustainable food system and optimal environments where consumers purchase and consume foods, we need improvements in food production and distribution so that consumers have a wide variety of healthy foods readily available," said Anderson, a professor of medicine at University of California, San Diego.

Voluntary private sector policies also can have a major positive effect on Americans' eating habits, according to the advisory.

"Examples include formulating new food products that are lower in calories and/or packaged as smaller serving sizes to reduce population-wide calorie consumption; improving the nutritional value of manufactured foods, product placement of healthier foods on grocery store shelves and pricing strategies to encourage purchasing healthier foods," Anderson said.

Research has shown that community-based approaches can lead to healthier food choices.

For example, some community groups and school districts use "traffic light" labeling of foods to help people make healthier choices, and evidence shows students drink more water at school when it is readily available.

Healthy eating improves overall health and can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke, but most Americans' eating habits need to be improved, according to the AHA.

"There is a need for immediate action to promote, fund and evaluate healthful changes to the food system. Innovation at multiple levels is necessary to see improvements in the public's health," Anderson said.

The advisory was published April 29 in the journal Circulation.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on healthy eating.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, April 29, 2019

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