Trends of the American Diet: For Better or Worse?

Source Article: The Changing American Diet

Since 1970, the USDA has been monitoring dietary trends of Americans. They have the data complete with graphs to show the changing trends. A great summary of this data was published in the Nutrition Action Healthletter in September 2013.

With increasing rates of chronic disease such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, it is reasonable to conclude that the changing trends of the American diet are not good ones. While we could argue whether any given trend is for better or worse, I would suggest that most are for the worst. Here are some highlights:

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image25364089Total caloric intake per day is 450 calories greater than it was in 1970 (2,535 vs. 2,075). The majority of these calories are coming from flour, cheese, oils, and sugar.

White and wheat flour outpace all other grains for current consumption. In fact the average American eats 109 pounds of flour per year, primarily from wheat. In 1970, this number was less than 80. Sugar consumption also remains high, at 78 pounds per person per year. As beef consumption has dropped, chicken consumption has climbed. Although we started eating more vegetables in 1980, that came to a rapid plateau. Both fruit and vegetable trends are virtually a flat line.

Dairy trends are curious. While whole milk consumption has dropped from 18 gallons per person in 1970 down to 4 gallons per person today, cheese consumption has filled that gap and then some. Cheese intake, in fact, is on an upward trajectory that does not appear to be leveling out. Yogurt consumption is also on a rapid rise. While yogurt is generally considered a healthy food, this is likely another source of added sugars in the American diet.

The trend that stands out as the most dismal is the category of fats. Total fat intake has climbed steadily since 1970. Over the last 10 years, the increase in fats has come entirely from “salad and cooking oils” while butter consumption has dropped. Salad and cooking oils are typically vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, canola, and cottonseed oils that have been chemically extracted, bleached, and deodorized. They provide too many omega-6 fatty acids and are sourced from GMO seeds.

Where have these trends landed us? Nearly 75% of adult Americans in 2010 were overweight or obese compared to less than 50% in 1970. Diabetes now affects nearly 7% of our population compared to less than 1% in 1958. The two leading causes of death in our country are cardiovascular disease and cancer.

We may all be better off if we returned to dietary trends that more closely resembled those of 1970 or before.

 

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