After decades of concerns and warnings about Americans obesity and related encroaching health problems, there does seem to be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. According to a recent review in the New York Times, the number of calories consumed has decreased across most major demographic groups. And the best news for the future of public health is that the trend includes children, whose intake has fallen by at least 9 percent.
As we ve noted before, knowing how many calories are in foods, and how much people consume can be tricky. However, the apparent reduction in calorie purchasing and consumption is based on data from three different sources daily food diaries, data from food bar codes, and estimates of food production. All show a similar trend.
It s been suggested that at least part of the impetus for changing Americans food-related behavior stems from maps denoting the increasing prevalence in obesity over time. In turn these maps and the subsequent US Surgeon General s report on obesity that linked obesity to several chronic diseases alerted both scientists and the public to this issue. However, as the article notes, the public concern may have even preceded public health messages, since even before 2004 many people said they wanted to lose weight.
The greatest change seems to have been a decrease in soda and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption by children down by 79 daily calories between 2004 and 2012. Unfortunately, calories from desserts went up by 20 in that period, while those from fruits and vegetables increased by only 16. Overall, their daily intake dropped by about 185 calories.
ACSH s Senior Nutrition Fellow Dr. Ruth Kava commented That this calorie decrement is good news is certainly beyond doubt; however it will not solve the current obesity problem in the U.S., as many Americans already are obese. The best portion of the trend is the decrease in sugar-sweetened beverages consumption by children. This indicates that parents are taking seriously the health effects of their kids diets and are perhaps changing their food purchases and preparation in order to have a positive impact. I certainly hope that s the case, and that it continues.