Is Nutritional Education Finally Getting Through?
In recent years we’ve seen various major pushes to raise public awareness about the health dangers of overeating and obesity — everything from Michelle Obama’s school lunch and physical activity initiatives, to mandatory calorie reporting on restaurant menus, to the major bottled drink manufacturers trending their products toward smaller serving sizes and lower calories.
When you look at the country’s obesity rates, though, it appears that information isn’t really getting through. The country is still estimated to be about one-third obese and one-third overweight, according to CDC standards. Bodybuilders sometimes get erroneously lumped in with “overweight” populations, but setting that small statistical anomaly aside, potentially over half of America is at health risk due to controllable dietary circumstances.
A new study indicates that all those nutritional initiatives may have actually been sinking in, however. While obesity rates haven’t significantly changed, it appears Americans are at least consuming less calories, cutting about 10 percent off their diets over the course of the last decade.
Across The Board
This information comes from a massive review of nutritional surveys and household food purchasing data. While demographic groups vary in their calorie reduction, nearly every possible group is down at least some amount.
Children are seeing the most benefit out of this newfound push for healthy eating. Their overall caloric intake has reduced the most, and young children are the only demographic group for which obesity rates have actually reversed and are coming down.
Education also had a strong correlation with energy decline. The biggest decreases in calorie intake came with households whose head had at least a high school education. Individuals with college educations reported a very sharp decline in calorie consumption.
And while there wasn’t any change in obesity rates outside of young children during this time … the good news is that there wasn’t any change in obesity rates! While they didn’t decrease, they also didn’t increase, holding fairly steady from 2003 to 2011.
But Are We Just Getting Poorer?
Now, the cynical mind may immediately think — “Hey, we were in a recession for a bunch of those years. Were people just buying less food?”
Fortunately, the team behind the study also thought of this possibility, and accounted for it. They actually found a small caloric intake increase across the board during the peak recession period of late 2007 to mid-2009.
Neither food expenditures nor overall food prices really increased in a significant way during this period, but caloric intakes still dropped overall for the full decade measured. That indicates that it wasn’t an “Oliver Twist factor” of people simply being too poor to eat all they want.
Refined Sugar — The Big Drop
The study also investigated what foods people were eating, and which they were cutting. The biggest drop across the board was for refined sugars — particularly full-calorie soda, which has dropped 25% in overall consumption over the past decade. All in all the average American purchases 30 gallons of full-calorie soda per year, down from the peak of 40 gallons in 1998.
So now we see why Pepsi and Coke are in such a hurry to be good nutritional citizens and emphasize zero-cal sweeteners and smaller portions in their products. Americans have seriously slowed down soda purchases now that knowledge of the health problems that empty calories can cause is out there!
Less Garbage In … But Still Too Much Garbage In
Though this is heartening news, we are already nearly at crisis levels for obesity, so maintaining the rates still isn’t quite good enough.
Though reducing caloric intake is a good start, it isn’t always about less calories for everyone, but rather the type of calories taken in. On that count, America still needs some serious work. The study indicated that solid fat consumption is still way too high, and setting aside soda, consumption of all types of sugars is also still too high.
Unfortunately, the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables did not see a significant increase during this period, and they still fell well behind the purchase of packaged and processed foods.
Action Still Required
Though this particular study did not examine it, other recent studies indicate Americans still tend to skew a little too inactive as well.
The problem begins early in life. Only about half of all boys and about a third of all girls under the age of 11 get the NIH recommended amount of physical activity in … and those numbers actually continually drop as they get older. While education on childhood nutrition is clearly improving a great deal, both parents and educators have some work to do on ensuring their kids are getting all the exercise they need for good health.
Regardless, we’ve been ranting about the overall caloric problem for quite some time on this blog – it’s the first and foremost part of weight loss (followed by proper protein and fruit/vegetable intake) — it’s great to see success here!
‘Murica, you’ve done a great job cutting out the soda. But now it’s time for the next step, to get up off the couch and commit to regular workouts. If you’re struggling to find your motivation, definitely give Myokem’s Pyroxamine fat burner a try. Unparalleled motivation and focus are delivered courtesy of citicoline, hordenine, theobromine, n-methyl-tyramine, and good ol’ caffeine. It’s no exaggeration — try it today and see it for yourself!