Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nutrition Summit Highlights America's Weight Problem Experts Say Diet Must Be Priority

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nutrition Summit Highlights America's Weight Problem Experts Say Diet Must Be Priority

Article excerpt

Prodding people to stop smoking or to buckle up their seatbelts almost looks easy compared to the newest public health campaign: trim America's oversized waistline.

Smoking focuses on breaking a single habit. Seatbelts requires learning one. But getting people into shape involves making many environmental changes, large and small, so people can upgrade their diets and exercise regularly.

Last week's National Nutrition Summit in Washington signaled the need to grapple with the complex and often subtle reasons why about 50 percent of adults are overweight, including 20 percent who are considered obese. The extra pounds increase a person's risk for chronic diseases.

"The summit coalesced people . . . to do something and to do something now," said John Peters, a nutritional biochemist at Procter & Gamble who has specialized in obesity research. Yet, he added, "there is no one fix."

Indeed, the summit organizers -- the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- will be combing through the dozens of suggestions that emerged from the two-day conference. U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher plans to convene a meeting this fall to develop a national action plan to address weight problems and obesity. Eileen Kennedy, a USDA undersecretary, said she expected to launch new nutritional campaigns later this year but was not specific about their scope.

"What remains to be seen is if a process emerges to take the [obesity] recommendations forward," said William Dietz, director of the division of nutrition and physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The government agencies are "eager and willing to do this. But there has got to be an atmosphere" that fosters a public and private partnership. …

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