We eat less, but we’re fatter

continued from last post

So much for the belief that it’s all about the calories.  According to a study that hit the news recently, we’re eating less, not more:

U.S. adults have been eating steadily fewer calories for almost a decade, despite the continued increase in obesity rates, according to survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Researchers, whose findings appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed trends since the 1970s and found that among adults, average daily energy intake rose by a total of 314 calories from 1971 to 2003, then fell by 74 calories between 2003 and 2010.

“It’s hard to reconcile what these data show, and what is happening with the prevalence of obesity,” said co-author William Dietz, former CDC director of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, to Reuters Health.

“Seventy-four calories is a lot, and as I said before, we would expect to see a measurable impact on obesity.”

Okay, this is interesting, but I have the same complaint here that I did with the first study:  how do these researchers know exactly how many calories people are consuming?  Unless the Department of Homeland Security has been spying on all of us and tracking every morsel we eat, I find it difficult to believe that they know for a fact that our calorie consumption has dropped by 74 calories.

That complaint aside, I could have predicted (and did) the reaction of the so-called experts.  They of course believe our bodies are like simple engines that can only respond to a slight decrease in fuel by tapping the reserve tank.  So as soon as I saw the headline, I knew the explanation for the calorie equation not working as advertised would be that we’re exercising less.  Yup.  Take a peek:

Experts said it’s possible more time is needed to see obesity rates respond to changes in calorie intake. It’s also possible that Americans have changed their eating habits but are still not getting enough exercise to burn the calories they do consume. Or, the surveys may simply be wrong.

It takes more than a decade for a reduction in calories to stop the rise in obesity rates?  Seriously?

“If you cut back on calories by 100 calories, you’ll plateau 10 pounds (4.5 kg) lower,” but you’d only see about half of that progress over the first year, said Claire Wang, who studies energy intake and expenditure at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

No, if you’re hormonally driven to get fatter and you cut your intake by 100 calories per day, your body will just adjust your metabolism down to make up the difference.  That’s why the “eat less and move more” advice fails over and over.  It doesn’t address the root cause of the problem.  If we are getting fatter while consuming the same or even slightly fewer calories, it’s a matter of what we’re eating, not how much.

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2 responses to “We eat less, but we’re fatter

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