Obesity epidemic : not cured yet, but maybe improving

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A few weeks ago, we covered a story about how obesity rates are actually declining among children in New York and California. Now we might have an explanation. A new federal analysis found that American children consumed fewer calories in 2010 than they did a decade before. And although obesity rates have remained flat in many other places, this may an indication of changes to come in the future.

The data, collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) through interviews, showed that calorie consumption for boys fell by 7 percent to 2,100 calories a day from 1999-2010. For girls over that same period, calorie consumption fell by 4 percent to 1,755 calories per day. The decline was attributed mainly to a drop in carbohydrate consumption.

Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, commented that to reverse the current prevalence of obesity, these numbers have to be a lot bigger. But they are trending in the right direction, and that s good news.

Along those same lines, using NHANES data as well, researchers found that fast food consumption defined as meals from Wendy s, Taco Bell, KFC and the like among adults has decreased from 13 percent to 11 percent of total calories per day, which may be contributing to the slow decline in obesity seen among adults. Eleven thousand adults were surveyed for the research, which found that young adults eat more fast food than older adults and blacks got more of their calories from fast food than whites and Hispanics.

However, the data were self-reported and Nestle chimed in again saying that she wouldn t be surprised if some people underreported their daily fast food intake, as 11 percent seems like a very low number.

No matter where the calories come from, it s good news that youngsters are consuming less of them, commented Dr. Kava. Further, it s not clear why eating a hamburger at home is any better than eating one at a fast-food restaurant, or why a decrease in the latter should be seen as beneficial. These sorts of headlines seem to indicate a desire to target fast food as a dietary factor of specific concern, without any specific basis.