The U.S. surgeon general has put his stamp of approval on a diet lower in fat and cholesterol, and health professionals say the government should now do more to help Americans improve their diets.

In a landmark report linking a bad diet to chronic illness, Surgeon General Everett Koop said reducing fat and cholesterol in the diet could reduce Americans' risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancer.The report did not specifically deal with how to implement its findings.

But Koop told reporters it showed there was a need to better educate consumers and health professionals on how to make intelligent food choices and to make better use of nutrition labels on food packaging.

This view was echoed by representatives of numerous Washington interest groups.

Michael Jacobson, a nutrition activist with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the Reagan administration should now put the report's findings to work by requiring nutritional labeling on all processed and fresh foods, including fast foods sold in restaurants.

He also called for a government crackdown on deceptive and misleading claims in food advertising and on labels.

The report's finding would hardly be startling to health professionals or to the millions who already watch their weight.

The American Heart Association and other groups have been making much the same recommendations for decades.

But nutrition experts said the report was nonetheless significant because it marked the first time these issues had been formally addressed by federal health policymakers.

"This advice is not new. But it is now substantiated by a large body of evidence derived from many different kinds of research--a research base that is now even more comprehensive than was the case for the pioneering 1964 Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health," said Otis Bowen, secretary of Health and Human Services, in a statement.

Koop's office is a part of the cabinet-level Health and Human Services Department.

Besides consuming less fat and cholesterol, the report said Americans should keep their body weights at reasonable levels, exercise regularly, eat more complex carbohydrates and fiber, cut down on salt, and drink alcohol only in moderation.

The report said foods relatively low in fat and cholesterol include vetetables, fruits, whole grain foods, fish, poultry, lean meats and low-fat dairy products.

It said foods rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber include whole grain foods and cereal products, vegetables including dried beans and peas, and fruits.

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Additional Information

The 10 leading causes of death

in the United States for 1987

* Causes of death in which overeating plays a major role Percent

of total

Rank/causes of death Number deaths

* 1. Heart diseases 759,400 35.7%

(Coronary heart disease) (611,700) (24.1%)

(Other heart disease) (247,700) (11.6%)

* 2. Cancers 476,700 22.4%

* 3. Strokes 148,700 7.0%

4. Unintentional injuries 92,500 4.4%

(Motor Vehicle) (46,800) 2.2%

(All others) (45,700) 2.2%

5. Chronic obstructive lung diseases 78,000 3.7%

6. Pneumonia and influenza 68,600 3.2%

* 7. Diabetes Melitus 37,800 1.8%

8. Suicide 29,600 1.4%

9. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 26,000 1.2%

*10. Atherosclerosis 23,000 1.1%

Source: National Center for Health Statistics