American adults are eating better, making better use of available nutrition information, and consuming fewer calories from fat, saturated fat and cholesterol and eating more fiber, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.
The study was based on data collected between 2005 and 2010 on close to 1,000 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which collects individual and household information on health-related topics through questionnaires, physical exams and lab tests. Overall, daily calorie intake dropped by 78 calories per day between 2005 and 2010 and there were also declines in calories from total fat (3.3 percent), saturated fat (5.9 percent), and intake of cholesterol (7.9 percent). Fiber intake increased by 1.2 grams per day, or 7.5 percent. ”
The researchers found that 42 percent of working adults said they increased their use of nutrition information, including the Nutrition Facts Panel found on most food packages, during the years of the study and 78 percent of working adults said they would use the information in restaurants if it were available.
The economic downturn of the years of the study may have been a factor, according to the research. The study found that reduced consumption of food in restaurants and fast food restaurants accounted for 20 percent of the improvements in diets with calories taken in from food purchased away from home dropping by 127 per day; on average people ate three fewer meals and 1.5 fewer snacks away from home during the study period.
Those changes could continue despite the improved economy. The report found that the percentage of working-age adults who believed they have the ability to change their body weight increased by three percentage points in 2010 from 2007.
“When individuals believe that their actions directly affect their body weight, they might be more inclined to make healthier food choices,” said study author Jessica Todd, Ph.D., of the Economic Research Service.