Trends at the Table

Feb 28, 2013

Two new surveys from the Centers for Disease Control suggest some progress in improving the way Americans eat, but experts are not ready to celebrate yet.

From 2007 to 2010, adults on average -- got just over 11% of their daily calories from fast food -- a decrease of about two percent from the period between 2003 and 2006. That said, two demographic groups still favor fast food.

“If you were in the like the 20-39-year-old age group, you were more likely to consume fast food.”

John Sirard is a professor at the University of Virginia, specializing in exercise and its impact on the body.  He says African-Americans also tended to consume more fast food than white or Hispanic adults.  Looking at children, the CDC found overall consumption of calories down, but childhood obesity was up three percent.

“If caloric intake is going down, but obesity is still going up, the last piece of the puzzle that we’re truly missing is  the physical activity.”

Sirard says he worries that children are still spending too much time staring at computer and TV screens when they should be exercising.  He’s cautiously optimistic about the numbers of adults eating fast food, but he’s not sure whether a decline in consumption of carbohydrates among kids is good news.

“You know that might be a good thing if we’re getting rid of the white bread and simple sugars, but if we’re losing some high fiber, complex carbohydrate foods, then that’s not a good thing, so I’m willing to bet we’re going to be seeing some more in-depth analysis in the months to come.”

Sirard says the problem of obesity in this country is complex and will take efforts at many levels to undo – from government policy and school lunches to family meals and rules.