Americans eat 2,600 calories per day. Where we're going wrong.

92% of the nation's uptick in caloric intake attributed to oils, fats, and grains

Writing for the Washington Post's "Wonkblog," Roberto Ferdman explains why the U.S. diet has failed, highlighting USDA data on how food consumption has changed over the last three decades.

According to a USDA report based on food production data and waste estimates, the average American consumes 2,600 calories per day, up nearly 500 calories from 30 years ago.

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According to the report, more than 92% of the increase in per capita caloric intake since 1970 can be attributed to oils, fats, and grains. Such foods now comprise about 47% of an average U.S. diet, compared with 37% 30 years ago.

Jeanine Bentley, a social science analyst at USDA, said it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the uptick, but that it likely has to do with the amount of processed and fast foods Americans are consuming.

According to a 2013 study by USDA's Economic Research Service, more than 13% of calories in the U.S. diet came from fast food between 2005 and 2008, compared with just 3% between 1977 and 1978. In addition, the study found that Americans are spending three times the recommended amount on refined grains and much more than they should on frozen and refrigerated meals.

In one state, the obesity rate has hit 35%. Gallup's latest obesity ranking

The result of the increase in calories and processed food consumption has attributed to the American obesity epidemic, Ferdman writes.

Americans ages 20 and older are now more than three times more likely to be obese today than they were 30 years ago. In 2008, obesity generated more than $150 billion in related expenditures, according to CDC estimates. Some now believe the total costs associated with obesity have exceeded $1 trillion (Ferdman, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 6/18).


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