(Nov. 7, WEB EXCLUSIVE) Nutrition experts are beginning the process of revising America’s Dietary Guidelines, and one leading nutrition expert says that should mean government support for more fruits and vegetables in the diet.

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt on Oct. 24 announced the 13 members of the committee and the first meeting of the committee was Oct. 30-31.

Schafer said the group reflects expertise on diet, human metabolism, behavior change and health. Congress mandates that dietary guidelines are reviewed every five years. The government agency responsible for supporting the process alternates every five years between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and HHS. For 2010, the USDA has the administrative lead for the revisions; the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is in charge of the effort.

The committee advise the secretaries of USDA and HHS on any nutritional and dietary revisions necessary to the existing Dietary Guidelines, a USDA news release said.

On Oct. 31, the advisory committee voted there is enough new science since the 2005 Dietary Guidelines to warrant new or updated guidelines for 2010, said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.

She said the first meeting of the group touched on the role that fruits and vegetables could play in increasing the fiber intake. Currently, U.S. consumers eat less than half of the recommended amount of dietary fiber, she said.

“If everybody ate the amount of fruits and recommended in dietary guidelines, everybody would be able to reach their fiber recommendations,” she said.

The second meeting of the group is expected at the end of January, which DiSogra said will allow nutrition or produce experts to provide testimony about the benefits of fruits and vegetables in the diet.

In a news release, Schafer said the dietary guidelines influence and strengthen the nation’s food assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps), and the school lunch and the Women Infants and Children programs.

Key fruit and vegetables recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines include:

  • Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs. Two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.

  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables) several times a week.