Obesity

Are Americans Eating Less Because of Government Intervention?

The timing of the decline makes that explanation highly improbable.

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Pixar

The New York Times reports that, based on several indicators, the average number of calories that Americans consume each day has fallen significantly since 2003 after rising during the prior two decades. "As calorie consumption has declined," the Times notes, "obesity rates appear to have stopped rising for adults and school-aged children and have come down for the youngest children, suggesting the calorie reductions are making a difference." As for what caused the drop in calorie consumption, the Times credits "public health campaigns in recent years" before conceding that such an explanation is temporally improbable, since "the timeline of the calorie declines suggests that people started eating a little less before policy makers got involved."

The Times notes that "the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, required chain restaurants to publish the calorie content of their meals." But that mandate has not taken effect yet, so it seems unlikely that it contributed to the decline in overeating. Likewise Philadelphia's produce subsidies, New York City's restrictions on food served at day care centers, and Berkeley's tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which the Times also mentions but which are too recent and too local to account for a nationwide trend that began in 2003. 

Two events that the Times mentions did occur before the decline in calorie consumption began: the 1999 publication of a CDC study featuring "bright blue maps illustrating worsening obesity rates in the 1980s and 1990s in all 50 states" and Surgeon General David Satcher's 2001 "Call To Action To Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity." While the timing is more plausible, I doubt that the general public paid much attention to either of these purported milestones. Possibly Americans figured out that they and their children were getting too fat without the help of public health bureaucrats.

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  1. Compare the calorie consumption decline to food price inflation.

    1. Right so maybe government action is causing the decline, just not in the way they claim.

    2. Are…are…are you suggesting that making things more expensive makes people buy less of them?!? Libertoonian nonsense. Next you’ll probably start saying that making labor more expensive lowers the employment rate.

      1. I remember restaurant portions going down as food prices increased, but that’s probably just a coincidence.

        1. That was just restaurants doing what all the Cool Kids were doing. I’m sure nothing else influenced that action. It was just them being trendy.

        2. A lot of packages at the grocery store got smaller too.

          1. HEY! MY EYES ARE UP HERE, ZEB!

    3. Hmmm… this could be part of it, but I’d have to see strong evidence before I bought it. Food is the first thing people spend money on. When prices go up, people might change what food they buy, but they tend to keep buying the same amount. (Steak’s too expensive, so they eat more chicken. etc.)

      I’m more inclined to believe that people are making conscious decisions to eat better based on health effects and cultural pressures. (As always, gov’t is late to the party, but will probably claim all the credit for it.)

      1. cultural == social

        But you know what I mean…

      2. I suspect that some of reduction in calorie consumption and obesity may be occuring despite government recommendations. For example, many people have enjoyed great success in losing weight by cutting the carbs with high-fat diets like Atkins and paleo. (I know I have lost about 20 pounds without much effort over the past three months.)

        Also, it probably has even more to do with demographics as the boomers advance into geezerhood. According to a metastudy of 900000 adults published in Lancet, those with BMI of 40-50 (mean 43) have 50% mortality at age 70. Those with BMI below 30 have only 23% mortality at age 70. Over the next decade, the fat baby-boomers you see at casinos and WalMart are going to be dropping like flies.

    4. Probably has more to do with consumer credit than price inflation. In extreme terms, the price inflation has hit proteins harder than carbohydrates.

      1. Which is a damn shame, in terms of actual nutrition.

      2. Not all proteins, just animal proteins. Eat your lentils!

    5. I suspect food consumption is fairly inelastic. Food is still pretty cheap. Though I’m sure it has some effect.

      I’d guess that it has the most to do with people not wanting to be fat. Which is something that people can figure out without government help.

  2. …before conceding that such an explanation is temporally improbable, since “the timeline of the calorie declines suggests that people started eating a little less before policy makers got involved.”

    This and Obamacare are the two most plausible explanations if you factor in the possibility that the president flew around the Earth so fast that he reversed its rotation and went back in time to keep fatties from eating so much with his law and policies from the future.

    1. the president flew around the Earth so fast that he reversed its rotation and went back in time to keep fatties from eating so much with his law and policies from the future.

      He probably did, after all he’s the Obamessiah. He can do anything! Isn’t he dreamy! *swoon* /progtard

  3. “The New York Times reports that, based on several indicators, the average number of calories that Americans consume each day has fallen significantly since 2003 after rising during the prior two decades.”

    2003 is when Hit & Run went live. Why not credit Hit & Run with the decline?

    2003 is also when we invaded Iraq. If we want more people to eat even fewer calories, maybe we should invade Syria?

  4. So, you eat fewer calories and you don’t gain weight. This is a surprise?

    1. Yes, but which government program is responsible for it?

      1. HAARP

  5. “Possibly Americans figured out that they and their children were getting too fat without the help of public health bureaucrats.”

    GO BACK TO SOMALIA!

    1. Body shaming worked. We need a Federal Mandate.

      1. Like when they send letters to “fat” kids’ parents in Britain?

        “Your child’s BMI is above normal. You have 30 days to remedy the situation before CPS gets involved.”

        “He’s a football player…sooooo.”

        1. They don’t have football on Britain, unless you’re referring to the faggy European kind. /’murika

          1. I think guy’s example was set in American.

          2. There is also Rugby football. Which doesn’t have all that faggy padding.

  6. No.

    Next question.

  7. My recent observation of mammals at one of your “theme parks” would indicate an opposite trend in consumption.

    1. a few years ago, i felt really badly for someone who couldn’t secure the shoulder restraint at king’s dominion. but there was no way they should have ever let her even attempt it. it was clear it wasn’t going to work. then i realized i was at king’s dominion and felt worse about myself.

      1. Kings Dominion wasn’t bad. I liked that volcano ride. Also I have observed more active corralling of larger creatures prior to reaching the ride

        1. I don’t think that was there last time i was at that park. this must have been .. 13-15 years ago.

          1. The volcano one is relatively new. It’s a good one. I think it is the second to newest ride there. Wish I could remember the names, though, for credibility’s sake…

    2. I noticed 2 things this weekend while shopping for ammo.

      1. No matter how much I let myself go, walking around Bass Pro Shop for half an hour makes me feel like Mr. Universe.

      2. When you see somebody in a wheelchair, there’s a little bit of natural curiosity about how they got that way. When the guy in the wheelchair has a mullet that would have been white trash even in the eighties, you can safely assume that story involved the phrase ” Hold my beer and watch this.”

  8. I didn’t really care for Wall-E.

  9. Why do so many supposedely intelligent journalists have such a hard fucking time understanding correlation does not equal causation? They seem to have trouble with a concept I was able to grasp before middle school.

    If I didn’t know better I’d have to conclude many journalists are either as dumb as dirt of full of shit.

    1. Hey, not EVERY journolist can go to Columbia Journo “school”.

    2. Why do so many supposedely intelligent journalists have such a hard fucking time understanding correlation does not equal causation?

      They know. But claiming ignorance gives them more latitude to lie in favor of their narrative.

    3. They have to make a story out of something., to sell newspapers.

      What are they supposed to say? “nothing to see here, move along”?

  10. Those obesity numbers don’t count those who have given up even trying to slim down their fat asses. You need to look at the obesity participation rate to get the full picture.

  11. Well, government intervention DOES make me lose my lunch sometimes…

  12. Venezuelans are certainly eating less because of government intervention.

    1. North Koreans too. The Chinese put on a clinic a few decades ago.

      1. It takes a village to starve to death.

  13. In 2002 Dr Adkins republished his book countering the govts nutritional advice. This started a national trend of moving away from high carb diets, to higher protein diets. Seems like a much more solid link.

    1. THIS ^

      That was about the time that there started to be serious push back against governmental dietary advice that has turned out to be a strong driver of mortality and morbidity.

      See Gary Taubes’ “Why We Get Fat – And What to Do About It” for a good read on the science, history, and politics involved.

    2. Yeah, same comment below.
      2003 is right around the time that the low-carb diet fad hit.
      Even if most people didn’t end up sticking to low-carb, they at least cut down the amount of refined sugar and white flour they were consuming.

  14. Until we have a decent definition for words like”overweight” and “obese”(one that doesn’t rely solely on height and weight) I think it’s hard to say what the fitness trends are.

  15. Possibly Americans figured out that they and their children were getting too fat without the help of public health bureaucrats.

    Unpossible. People wouldn’t even know what to eat unless the FDA tells them. /sarc

    1. USDA.

      You deserve what you get if you eat the FDA recommendations.

  16. I think the average person is finally waking up and eating healthier. That’s all.

  17. I may be too optimistic, but I would guess the low-carb diet fad increased awareness of the health effects of refined sugar and flour, along with other carbs.

  18. I agree that low-carb may have something to do with it. But cripes, have you seen food prices recently? $2 for a red bell pepper? Aren’t they in season? And $6.39 for a dozen eggs? I know there’s some avian flu thing going around, but yikes.

    1. And $6.39 for a dozen eggs?

      Wait, what? Is that just for regular old store brand eggs? I’m pretty sure it’s still < $2 here.

      1. Those had best be Passenger Pigeon eggs…Around $1.79-$2.19 here.

      2. Yup, my local Safeway this weekend. Nearly the price of the free-range organic variety. Not long ago they were $2-$3.

        One factor may be the recent initiative that decreed that “factory farming” of chickens was illegal in the state.

          1. Good heavens. Who could ever have guessed that could be a consequence of such a regulation?

        1. Eggs in the Food Lion across the street are about $2.50.

          Safeway is always a rip-off, due to their unionized workforce and consequent lack of automated checkouts. (Seriously. The union won’t let safeway install them.)
          I often find eggs ludicrously expensive there, along with other more obscure items.
          Lindt chocolate bars are $4.50 at Safeway and $2.50 across the street.

          Again, don’t shop at safeway.

          1. It’s the biggest store within walking distance to me, and with the club card my bills average 30% off, so I don’t hate the place.

  19. for what caused the drop in calorie consumption, the Times credits “public health campaigns in recent years” before conceding that such an explanation is temporally improbable, since “the timeline of the calorie declines suggests that people started eating a little less before policy makers got involved.”

    Let’s leave aside for a minute the obvious issue with the timeline here. What do they mean with “public health campaigns in recent years”? Those campaigns have been going on for a few decades at least. I am a child of the 70s and 80s and I tell you the government and its minions were already opening the floodgates of anti-calorie propaganda. I believe the trend better correlates with the availability of other foods and the increase in prices due to inflation. As food becomes more expensive, people eat less of it.

    1. how do prices increase cuz of inflation? obviously the number of dollars would increase but the actual price would not, i wouldnt think. or maybe it would. im actually asking

  20. The most obese communities are almost always the poorest in the cheap-calories period that began two or three generations ago.

    As the past couple of decades have featured a substantially increased absolute standard of living for every income bracket, more people who would have been obese two decades ago now have other options available to them. Has nothing to do with the rising prices of food, as it was never expensive food that Americans were becoming fat on in the first place.

    It was always carbs, namely sugar, corn (another word for sugar), and flour, all of which are dirt cheap in terms of calories per dollar.

    1. flour’s barely less of a word for sugar than corn is. it’s so strange that our government could be so wrong about something

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