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Agricultural News

USDA Researchers Say American Adults Eating Better

Sun, 19 Jan 2014 07:00:16 CST

USDA Researchers Say American Adults Eating Better
American adults are consuming fewer calories from fat and saturated fat, eating less cholesterol, making better use of nutritional information and eating at home more often, the USDA's Economic Research Service said Thursday as it released a new report.

The study, titled "Changes in Eating Patterns and Diet Quality Among Working-Age Adults, 2005-2010", analyzed individual dietary intake data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which collects data from a sample of 9,839 individuals that's designed to be nationally representative.

Between 2005 and 2010, daily caloric intake dropped by 78 calories. ERS researcher Jessica Todd also noted a 3.3-percent drop in calories from total fat, a 5.9-percent drop in calories from saturated fat, and a 7.9-percent drop in cholesterol intake.

Overall fiber intake rose by 1.2 grams a day, or 7.5 percent; her data don't currently allow her to conclusively like the increased fiber intake to consumption of more fruits and vegetables, Todd told reporters on a conference call, noting that she hopes to look into specific data like that in future research.

Consumers are also using nutritional information more often, with 42 percent of working-age adults and 57 percent of older adults reporting that they use the nutrition facts panel most or all of the time when they make food choices. The Food and Drug Administration plans to propose a new nutrition facts panel soon.

Some 76 percent of working-age adults said they would use nutrition information posted in restaurants if it were available.

Consumers are dining out less frequently. During the five year period, food away from the home (FAFH) dropped from 35 percent of daily calories to 30 percent. Todd's analysis found that reduced consumption of FAFH accounted for less than 20 perfect of the improvements in diet quality. (For the purposes of this study, "at-home foods" included foods purchased at a grocery store or via mail order as well as foods grown or caught by the individual or someone he or she knows. All other foods are classified as "food away from the home.")

The study measures fast food as a subset of FAFH; daily fast food calories fell by 53 over the course of the study.

As the recession fades, Todd said she expects consumption of FAFH to rise again. "It meets a need in peoples' busy lives," she said. "However, because consumers are focusing on nutrition information more, I don't think diet quality will rebound or become worse to the same degree."

"These are encouraging findings," USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon told reporters, noting that both the public and private sectors have launched initiatives related to improving the American diet. "While the habits of most Americans fall short of the recommendations of the dietary guidelines...we are beginning to see progress."

"This study is yet another indication that there is a major shift underway in this country about how American families are eating," Let's Move! Executive Director and White House Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy Sam Kass said. "Efforts all over the country are having a real and measurable impact. Families are eating more at home. They're using the nutrition facts panel. They're making, ultimately, better choices."

To review the full report, click here.



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