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NEW GUIDELINES LET UP ON SUGAR, SALT

Warnings about sugar and salt are less severe in a government advisory panel's new recommendations for healthy eating, but the overall message is still moderation.

The panel's recommendations to update nutritional guidelines also argue against routinely using supplements instead of food to get vitamins, minerals and fiber. Vegetarians are recognized for the first time and get special advice on how to get by without meat, milk and eggs. Exercise is given greater emphasis.Despite those changes, the basic message remains the same as it was five years ago: Eat a variety of foods, including lots of fruits, vegetables and grains; go easy on alcohol, cholesterol, fats, salt and sweets; watch your weight.

The recommendations are contained in a report completed this summer by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The report, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, revises the 1990 edition and is the first required by law.

The Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments will decide as early as November which of the recommendations to adopt when they revise the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to reflect current scientific understanding. The guidelines are used largely to guide nutritionists and doctors and educate the public.

The pyramid-shaped guide to daily food choices, issued in 1992, is based on the last set of recommendations.

The committee changes slightly the language for salt, sodium and sugar consumption. Rather than saying they should be eaten "only in moderation," the guidelines should say "choose a diet moderate" in those ingredients, the panel of physicians and nutritionists said.

The report notes that added sugar hasn't been shown to cause hyperactivity or diabetes, is digested the same as naturally occurring sugars or carbohydrates, and enhances the flavor and texture of some foods. At the same time, sugar adds calories but no other nutrients.

The salt warning was changed because questions remain about the relationship between sodium use and high blood pressure.

The report preserves the recommendation that no more than 30 percent of daily calories come from fat, and 10 percent from saturated fat.

Although the previous guidelines recommended food rather than supplements as a way to provide good nutrition, the new proposals are stronger.

"Some of the health benefits associated with a high-fiber diet come from other components present in these foods, not just from fiber itself," the committee said. "For this reason, fiber is best obtained from foods rather than supplements."

The report recommends that vegetarians who eat no animal products supplement their diets with vitamin B-12, found only in animal foods. These so-called vegans, especially children, should take care to find sources of vitamin D and calcium.

The message to exercise is made stronger, with a reminder to "try to maintain your body weight by balancing what you eat with physical activity."