Science

American Children Are Eating Fewer Calories, Adults Eating Less Fast Food

By Sean Kane email: s.kane@itechpost.com , Feb 22, 2013 12:22 PM EST

American children are eating fewer calories.

A new federal analysis shows that children in the United States ate fewer calories in 2010 than they did a decade before. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey also reveals statistics on adult fast food consumption.

The research finds that boys have reduced their calorie consumption by seven percent, to 2,100 calories a day. Girls’ calorie consumption has dropped by four percent, to 1,755 calories a day. Adult energy intake has not changed considerably for years, although the research states that fewer of adults' calories are coming from fast food in recent years. While obesity rates are still high (one third of adults is obese), they have plateaued. These numbers are encouraging, but are too small to indicate a real decline in childhood obesity.

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

Childhood obesity rates have remained constant of late, but this lower caloric intake may foreshadow a future drop.

“A harbinger of change is a good phrase,” Dr. R. Bethene Ervin, a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and author of the study told the Times. “But to see if it’s really a real trend we would obviously need more years of data.”

Lower carbohydrate consumption is behind the calorie drop, and this could be proof of the belief that processed sugars (a form of carbohydrates), added to child-friendly food like breakfast cereal and soda, is behind the spike in childhood obesity over the past few decades. The study finds that the calorie decrease was highest in boys ages 2 to 11 and in teenage girls.

In addition to less calories from carbohydrates, researchers found that more of children’s calories are coming from protein, while the intake of calories from fat remained stable.

These changes in diet were not the same across all demographics. While the rate was lower for white and black boys, carbohydrate consumption did not decrease in Hispanic boys. White girls were the only female demographic that ate fewer carbohydrates.

The study also sheds light on a decline in fast-food consumption among adults: Fast food made up 11.3 percent of American adults’ caloric intake, a decline from 12.8 percent in 2006. This decrease was most pronounced in adults ages 40-59. About a third of all the calories Americans consume come from eating outside the home.

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