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Dynamic Chiropractic – March 24, 2003, Vol. 21, Issue 07
Dynamic Chiropractic
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Dynamic Chiropractic

U.S. Food Consumption and Obesity, Part 1 of 2

By G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN

When I ask patients from abroad about the United States, they invariably comment on the amount of overweight people and the huge portions of food we serve. What is considered small by our standards is quite large in many other parts of the world.

In developed nations, especially in the U.S., obesity has increased at an alarming rate in the past decade. In their book, Advanced Human Nutrition, Wildman and Medeiros1 state that consumption surveys (in particular, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey - NHANES) indicate that the amount of daily calories consumed by Americans has slightly decreased in the previous decade. This theme is echoed in many popular weight-loss books currently on the market; however, it is an idea that yours truly has found difficult to swallow.

 

Era
Description
Size
Calories
Per Serving
1950s
one size
regular
200
1970s
Regular fries are now small
new large
320
1980s
Large is now regular
new large
400
1990s
Large is now 450 calories
new super-size
540
2000s
Super-size is now large
new super-size
610
The growth of McDonald's French fries.

It is generally accepted that large population surveys tend to have large margins of error.2 It is also accepted that serving sizes have continued to increase. Take, for example, French fries from America's leading fast-food restaurant.

Most people do not realize that when they order a Big Mac, medium fries and a medium drink, they are about to consume 1,250 calories, including 56 grams of fat and 1,380 milligrams of sodium.3 When a person requests a super-size soft drink and fries, the calories total 1,610.3 (This does not count the ketchup used on the fries.) Across the street at Burger King, a regular Whopper without cheese, a medium soda and medium fries contains 1,270 calories and 57 grams of fat;3 make it a double Whopper with cheese, large fries and a large drink, and the totals are a whopping (no pun intended) 2,050 calories, 95 grams of fat and 2,600 milligrams of sodium!3

Disappearance Data

Estimating food consumption by food disappearance statistics is accomplished as follows: Production is added to beginning stocks and total imports, and farm use, industrial use, exports, and ending stocks are subtracted. Disappearance data includes spoilage, spillage and waste. Thus, the actual amounts people consume are less. One lengthy USDA document4 includes in-depth disappearance data statistics on the types and amounts of food consumed from 1970 to 1997 in the United States. Also included is a macronutrient breakdown of daily disappearance levels (per person) of protein, carbohydrate, fat and calories. These statistics are available from 1970 to 1994. These data can be easily compared and contrasted using the tables below. My next article will contain more tables, and go into greater detail on the specific types, categories and kinds of food that have been "disappearing" in the United States.

Year
Protein
Carbohydrates
Fat
1970
95
386
154
1980
96
406
153
1990
105
458
156
1994
110
491
159
Macronutrients consumed (grams
per person per day).

Year
Protein
Carbohydrates
Fat
1970
11.4%
46.6%
41.8%
1980
11.3%
47.9%
40.6%
1990
11.5%
50.1%
38.4%
1994
11.5%
51.2%
37.3%
Caloric consumption (percentage per person per day).

Year Calories Total calories per person per day (based on disappearance data).
1970 3,310
1980 3,385
1990 3,656
1994 3,835

References

  1. Wildman RE, Medeiros DM. Advanced Human Nutrition. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2000.
  2. National Research Council. Nutrient Adequacy: Assessment Using Food Consumption Surveys. Washington: National Academy Press, 1986.
  3. Jacobson MS, Hurley JG. Restaurant Confidential. New York: Center for Science in the Public Interest, Workman Publishing Company, 2002.
  4. Putnam JJ, and Allshouse JE. Food Consumption, Prices, and Expenditures 1970-97. Food and Rural Economics Division, Economics Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture 1990, Statistical Bulletin no. 965.

G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN
Brea, California



Click here for more information about G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN.

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