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NewsBites September 2011 Issue

Obesity Equation: Eating More Often, Bigger Portions

Don’t blame more-caloric foods for the US obesity epidemic, however. A new survey of changing eating habits says the energy density (calories) of foods actually declined a bit over the 30 years from 1977-2007. But we’re consuming larger portions of those foods and eating more often, with meals and snacks adding up to 4.9 “eating occasions” a day, up from 3.8. Portion sizes increased about 15 calories a day from 1977-78 to 1989-91, then leveled off, according to the report. Added eating occasions more than took up the slack, however, contributing an extra 39 daily calories. Overall, total daily calorie intake for US adults ballooned from 1,803 in 1977-78 to 2,374 in 2003-06. Lead researcher Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill commented, “First, the food industry started ‘super-sizing’ our portions, then snacking occasions increased and we were convinced we needed to drink constantly to be hydrated. This study shows how this epidemic has crept up on us. The negative changes in diet, activity and obesity continue and are leading to explosions in health-care costs and are leading us to become a less healthy society.”

TO LEARN MORE: PLoS Medicine, online at

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