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Proposed Updates to Dietary Guidelines Include Limits on Caffeine and 'Empty Calories'

hemeroskopion/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An advisory panel made its recommendations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services in regards to an update of dietary guidelines for Americans for 2015.

In the 600-page report, the panel recommends setting daily limits for "empty calories," or the solid fats and added sugars that "provide calories but few or no nutrients." Those limits would vary by age and gender.

Children between the ages of two and eight would be urged to keep their "empty calories" at about 120 calories per day; children nine to 13 years old would be advised to keep that figure between 120 and 250 calories per day. Girls and women above the age of 14 would have their guidelines for "empty calories" set at 120 to 250 daily, while boys and men of the same age would be advised to stay between 160 and 330 calories.

The panel also recommends a daily limit of 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. Consumption of caffeine to that point "is not associated with adverse health consequences." The average cup of coffee contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine, allowing up to four cups daily for coffee drinkers.

Finally, the panel placed more pressure on the food industry to promote healthy eating, urging the industry to encourage healthy eating by making low-fat or fat-free options default in restaurants, as well as fruit and non-fried vegetables in children's meals. Further recommendations included whole wheat buns in restaurants and reformulated food by manufacturers to lower intake of sodium, added sugars, saturated fat and calories, while increasing consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell released a statement on the proposed guidelines, saying that they are "at the core of our efforts to promote the health and well-being of American families." The two departments will now review the report and begin the process of updating those guidelines.

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