Recently an interesting report was published by the US Department of Agriculture. The document sheds light on food consumption patterns in the United States and how these have changed over time. With obesity rising, with claims being made that there are links between certain foods and certain nutrients and obesity it is interesting to look at these trends and see how they correlate.
The report examines the amount of food available for consumption in the US between 1970 and 2014. The report focusses on loss-adjusted food availability data. These data are essentially obtained from the foods that are produced and available for consumption and corrected for food losses (food spoilage, plate waste and other losses) along the way. This gives an estimation of consumption per capita. This is different than other studies where a cohort of people is asked to record their food intake. Both approaches have their challenges and limitations but both provide estimations of food intake in a population and insights into trends.
What did the new study find? First Americans have been consuming more food from ALL food groups between 1970 and 2014. Even the consumption of fruit and vegetables is increased! But most notably, on average, Americans consume more foods that are high in added fats and oils, added sugar and sweeteners and grains than is recommended. They consume too few foods that are nutrients dense such as vegetables, seafood, low-at dairy products and fruit.
Over the same period we have seen a dramatic increase in obesity as well as type II diabetes. These data are more compatible with the idea that obesity is caused by eating too much and not necessarily by eating too much of one nutrient whether this is fat or carbohydrate, added sugar or anything else.
Data like this have limitations as indicated above. They are impossible to apply to an individual but are pretty good estimates of what is happening at a population level. There are also advantages of this methods over other methods of assessing dietary intake. For example, food intake records rely heavily on honest and accurate reporting of dietary intake (and it is generally known that these methods may underestimate true intake by 20-60% and may skew the data towards certain ingredients).
Hippocrates may have been right all along.
“It is very injurious to health to take more food than the constitution will bear, when, at the same time one uses no exercise to carry off the excess. For as aliment fills and exercise empties the body, the result of an exact equipoise between them must be to leave the body in the same state they found it, that is in perfect health”.
Download and read the full report here:
Bentley J. US trends in food availability and a dietary assessment of loss adjusted food availability 1970-2014