What You Can Learn From Carbohydrate Consumption Statistics

Today, Americans are constantly worrying about their health and overall body image.  With super models, actors, and public figures appearing on billboards around every highway and street corner, health has become a part of American pop culture.  Many of us, however, still fail to maintain healthy diets or even get out of the house for a little exercise, and all the while the average weight and BMI of Americans, coupled with the increased development of Type 2 Diabetes, has continued to rise. 

So the big question becomes, “Why is this the case?”

The US National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey

For the last 50 years, the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has been used to measure the caloric consumption, body weight, and heights of Americans.  The purpose of the study was to "determine, based on that data, how macronutrient consumption patterns and the weight and body mass index in the US adult population have evolved since the 1960s."  So now that we know what the goal has been, what are the results?

Since the initiation of the study, survey results have yielded some rather surprising revelations for physicians and nutritionists alike.  The results show that daily caloric intake from consumption of fat dropped from 45% to 34%.   At the same time, the daily caloric intake from carbohydrate consumption increased from 39% to 51%.   

Another surprising revelation was that between 1971 and 2011, the average weight and BMI of an American went up, along with the percentage of overweight or obese Americans from 42% to 66%.  That means that in 1971, 42% of Americans (which is still a pretty high number) were considered to be overweight, or obese, and in 2011, 66% of the modern population is considered to be overweight or obese.  

The Future

NHANES concluded that, since 1971, the general population has seen an increase in weight and BMI, not because of an overconsumption of fat or higher fat content, but rather, because of an overconsumption macronutrients by way of carbohydrates.  This means that adherence to nutritional recommendations that have been developed for the general public to lower fat intake and increase carbohydrate intake has lead to an increase in the percentage of obese Americans. 

So what can you do in order to help slow the population growth in the number of obese Americans? 

Having plenty of carbohydrates in your diet is not a bad thing, and, in some cases like athletes or those who exercise regularly, it may even need to be higher.  But for the average American, your carbohydrate intake should be balanced with your fat, caloric, and vitamin and mineral intake.  Try paying more attention to the nutritional information provided for your food by the FDA; this will help you to monitor your caloric, carbohydrate, and fat intake, and allow you to have a more balanced diet

Steven Zahn

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Pre and Post Partum Certified

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