Federal Scientists Weigh Cut in Dietary Requirements
Washington--The National Academy of Sciences reportedly has drafted a study that says the federal government should lower its recommended daily dietary requirements for vitamins and minerals.
That government standard for the daily intake of nutrients needed for good health is currently used in menus for all federal food-assistance programs, including school-lunch programs, and is widely cited as a national standard for sound nutrition.
Such a move, some nutrition experts say, could have a negative effect on the more than 25 million students who participate in the school breakfast and lunch programs across the country, as well as on elderly and low-income people who participate in public-assistance programs.
The draft of the study has not been made available to the public. But according to the New York Times, the academy suggests lowering the recommended daily allowances of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and iron, and raising the daily recommended allowances for calcium.
A spokesman for the Food Research and Action Center, a Washington public-interest group, said its executive director, Michael Lemov, had learned of the academy's conclusions independently and had sent its officials a letter of protest before last week's news account.
The academy was chartered by the Congress in 1863 as a private organization to examine questions of science and technology at the request of the Federal Government. It has studied and revised the recommended dietary allowances (rda's) approximately every five years since 1943.
Not Made Public
In a statement issued by the academy last week, officials said they would not comment on the report's conclusions, but they said that "all reports of the academy's national research council go through an extensive review process in which drafts are critiqued by additional independent scientific experts appointed by the research council. It is not unusual for reports to be changed at this stage and for conclusions and recommendations to be modified as a result."
A spokesman for the academy said that a report on recommended dietary allowances would be released in a few months.
'Less Food, More Hunger'
"These new rda's will probably mean less food and more hunger for millions of people, in programs which were started to end hunger and malnutrition and their effects on growth, intellectual development, and general functional ability," Mr. Lemov warned in his letter. He said the lowered allowances could be used to provide less food in institutional settings, to change evaluations of the nutritional adequacy of the diet of the U.S. population, and to "prove" that fewer people are hungry in the United States and need federal-food assistance programs or emergency food sites.
But Henry Kamin, chairman of the academy's committee on dietary allowances, which is working on the report, said last week that "the question is whether scientists should give policymakers the best science they have or whether they should manipulate their findings to please policymakers or certain constituencies."
Dr. Kamin, a professor of biochemistry at Duke University, refused to either confirm or deny the published reports of the academy's conclusions, but he said all the criticisms leveled at the report by various organizations simply say that "their perceptions of the report do not follow their agenda."
According to the Times article, the draft of the report lists many reasons for changing the allowances, including: new data, new scientific experiments, more precise information about the height and weight of people in different age groups, and new perceptions of old data.--at