Americans Have Been Following Nutrition Guidelines – According to New Food Consumption Data
The government just published a new report on American food availability. This is big news! The last such report was published nearly a decade ago.
This report confirms what the last one found:
In nearly every way possible, Americans have followed official dietary advice.
From 1970 to 2014, our food availability changed dramatically, all in line with the HHS-USDA Dietary Guidelines (we don’t have data specifically starting in 1980, which is when the Guidelines were launched). Note: this is availability data, not adjusted for loss and waste, which is closer to actual consumption data. That consumption data is also in the report, but % changes are not calculated, so I’ll do that and report back. I’ve done some checking, however, and can report that so far, consumption tracks closely with availability.
WE EAT MORE of all the foods that we were told to increase:
- Fresh fruit, up 35%
- Fresh vegetables, up 20%
- Wheat flour, up 21%
- Fish and shellfish, up 23%
- Chicken (which we were told to eat instead of red meat), up 114%
- Nuts, up 51%
WE EAT LESS OF all the foods that we were told to decrease:
- Red meat is down 28%
- Beef is down 35%
- Pork is down 11%
- Veal, lamb and mutton are down 78%
- Eggs are down 13% (only in 2015 did the Dietary Guidelines change its policy on cholesterol, suggesting that eggs are now OK)
WE ALSO CHANGED THE FATS IN OUR FOODS, as we were told:
- Whole milk is down 79% while lower fat and skim milk are up 127%
- Animal fats (saturated fats) are down 27% while….
- Vegetable fats and oils (unsaturated fats) are up 87%
- Salad and cooking oils are up 248%
HOWEVER, added sugars are up 10%, driven by high-fructose corn syrup (up by 8,212%), not refined cane and beet sugars (down 33%). The added sugars number have actually been dropping since about 1999, but I’ll save that for another post.
- Americans have done a very good job following the US guidelines.
- To blame obesity, diabetes, and other nutrition related diseases on saturated fats or red meat is strongly contradicted by this data.
- To suggest that more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts will be a panacea for health are also contradicted by this data.
31 thoughts on “US Food Consumption Data”
Nina, you are so good at finding, and calling a spade a spade! You are my hero.
Thank you for being the voice of reason.
Thanks for your comment! Appreciate that.
I’m confused by the figures in the article. The reference listed is U.S. Trends in Food Availability and a Dietary Assessment
of Loss-Adjusted Food Availability, 1970-2014, which found that AMericans consumed more dairy – especially cheese – and significantly more fats and oils. Doesn’t this mean they HAVEN’T followed the message to reduce fat intake, but have increased both fat and carbohydrates?
Americans do consume slightly more dairy (due mainly to increase in cheese consumption), and this could be consistent with the guidelines if that cheese is all low-fat (unlikely given that so much of cheese sold is not low-fat). The increase in oils is due to the enormous increase in the consumption of vegetable oils, which is also consistent with guideline recommendations–which say to increase consumption of polyunsaturated oils. Consumption of total fat has decreased since 1970.
HFCS up by 8,212%. If we could change one thing. That would be the place to start.
Consumption of total sugars and added sugars has actually declined since 1999. Not sure if I trust all those numbers..
Nina, great to find your site/blog from you Weston A. Price interview. I’d bought your book but will now place it on the top of the stack! It’s fabulous to see real investigative reporting contradicting the diet dictatorship in their own language. Thanks for your efforts and I look forward to learning from a rational voice!
Well no duh, that’s why they pay so much to lobby (corrupt) the U.S. government!
Numerous eating patterns around the world and historically have yielded non obese populations without significant rates of diabetes. Some ate a lot of saturated, others not so much. Perhaps not all of this change is diet related?
I think there is enough science now to show that nutrition is a principal driver of obesity/t2 diabetes, but it is not the only one. Sleep, stress, and hormones also drive obesity. Possibly some environmental factors as well. Exercise has a relatively small impact, it seems.
A generation of nutrition scientists long on advice but short on scholarship.
Once again excellent Nina!
However we will be told at although we have eaten what we have been told, that we have not combined the correct foods and quantities.
You see, for that we need to consult Dieticians & experts!! 😉
Yes, you fail (yet again) to eat the correct dietary PATTERN. Never has eating been so complicated. Thank goodness for experts!
Interesting to look at the raw amounts as well, where the major changes are, and compare with major health issues. I’d have to look up actual incidences of things like heart disease and cancer compared to 1970, but you only have look at some old photos to know that a LOT more people are obese now, and of course Type II diabetes has gone through the roof. Some interesting points from the report:
* Protein has remained pretty much constant in absolute amount, lending some further weight to the “protein hypothesis”.
* Added sugar hasn’t increased a great deal. The largest increases are in nuts and seeds (which includes soy, BTW) and added oils, most of which are “liquid oils”, which the report repeats as being “canola and olive oils”. But I’m sure other vegetable must be lumped in here, particularly soybean oil, which seems to appear on the label of just about every product in the grocery store.
* In general, soy seems to sneak into a lot of categories, including dairy. It would be interesting to know the change in just soy intake from all sources since 1970.
A couple of takeaways/questions:
* I can come up with three obvious hypotheses on what’s driving metabolic syndrome. Added sugar doesn’t appear to be an independent factor, unless there’s some very sharp threshold for it’s effect. Sugar + fat seems like a good candidate, and makes sense based on what we know about metabolism at the cellular level, particular how mitochondria and the cell react to excess calories.
* I have a suspicion that oxidized fats make your mitochondria (particularly those in your liver) really angry. Would be interesting to know how much of the “liquid oils” increase consists of PUFA vs. MUFA and SFA, and what the estimated percentage of oxidized fat intake is.
* Soy seems to be sneaking in everywhere. More research is needed, but the massive amount of xenoestrogen in soy should give us pause. Hormonal disruption is almost certainly a part of what drives metabolic syndrome, and large increases in xenoestrogen intake would seem to be a red flag there.
Good observations and interesting questions.
–Agree that the data isn’t sufficient to say sugar alone is the culprit. My hypothesis is that it could be sugar + excess carbs or excess wheat. Or sugar + polyunsaturates. There’s not enough science to know.
–PUFA oxidize most easily, and there’s much we don’t know about these effects, but in Ch 9 of my book, I outline some of the scary ones.
–Agree on soy. Huge increases in the food supply, and know very little about its xenoestrogen effects!
Excess of “anything”, with sedentary lifestyle, is probably the main cause…
Although it does seem hard to believe, there is no evidence that aerobic exercise helps with weight loss. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines committee reviewed all the evidence on “sedentary lifestyles” and could not find that they lead to obesity. However, there is some evidence that weight training, High-intensity interval training will help improve insulin sensitivity and thus fat reduction…
I disagree. I gained quite a bit of weight while exercising quite a lot (depending on season, 100+ miles/week bike riding in summer but much less in the winter). It wasn’t until I went low carb that I lost 30 pounds, while DECREASING exercise. I then added intermittent fasting to that and lost about another 20 pounds, again DECREASING exercise further. My job did not change. I’ve since started increasing my exercise again (I like to exercise), but if exercise has benefits, it’s in the change in insulin/glucagon response, and not calories burnt, which are a byproduct.
I’ve kept my weight off, and continue to lose weight, 4.5+ years on low carb. Had DEXA scans done, and lost 5.2 pounds of fat while gaining 3.3 pounds of muscle over the last year (scale weight change of about -2 pounds). Did have one hiccup due to shoulder surgery, where I gained back some weight. But recovery from shoulder surgery sucks — you have to sleep sitting up, you’re taking drugs for the pain, you can’t lift anything for a long while, and then can’t lift more than 10 pounds for months. Sleep is terrible while recovering. Had first DEXA scan done after recovery was completed. after shoulder surgery.
I don’t believe “sedentary lifestyle” has anything to do with gaining weight, at least for me and many people like me.
The science seems to be mounting that reactive oxygen species (ROS) molecules will trigger insulin resistance at the cellular level. This make some sense, if we consider how mitochondria function. Mitochondria transform food into ATP through a series of chemical reactions driven by electron transport. I like to think of it like the conveyor belt of chocolates in that “I Love Lucy” episode, because the electron transport is driven by the presence of food, not the amount of available ATP. If ATP is “full” but there’s still food available, the electrons have no place to go, and start leaking into the cell where they can create ROS, potentially damaging to the mitochondria, DNA, etc. It’s been observed that hydrogen peroxide (a common ROS) can induce insulin resistance in cells, which makes sense: if there’s too much food around creating these nasty ROS, then the cell should try to stop the excess food from coming in.
Consider what happens if both sugar and fat are present in the cell. The sugar is preferentially metabolized, then the fat. When ATP is replete, electrons can leak out and react with the excess fatty acids and create lipid peroxides. Lipid peroxides are nasty, because they can cause a chain reaction where (in the presence of oxygen) one fatty acid can react with other fatty acids to create more fatty acid radicals. PUFA is obviously the most unstable in this case, so lots of sugar + PUFA would be a dynamite combination for inducing cellular insulin resistance. Note that we expect this to happen regardless of the origin of the fatty acids. The liver will accumulate fat as a result of processing excess fructose, and that fat hanging around in the liver can be a target for oxidation, leading to chronic hepatic insulin resistance, which is definitely a Bad Thing.
Nina, you say that, “In nearly every way possible, Americans have followed official dietary advice.”
I assume you base that on your figures showing Americans have increased their consumption of fruit and vegetables, while reducing red meats and saturated fats etc.
However, the report states:
Americans are only consuming 43% of the recommended daily fruit intake. Only 66% of the recommended vegetable intake, and 49% of dairy.
However, Grains are 9% over the recommended.
Protein foods 29%
Added sugars and sweeteners is 89% over the recommended, and
Added fats and oils is 66% over.
So, while your figures suggest an improvement in American diets, the report shows that Americans are still nowhere near following dietary recommendations. Some components are more than 100% off the dietary recommendations.
How do you justify your statement that Americans have followed dietary advice?
See my answer to Emma, above.
Hi Nina, what do you think about the research done on Okinawas living very long with consuming only sweet potatoes almost and also the old Incas eating potatoes. And the Chinese eating loads of rice in the past, but now according to vegans are consuming way more animals and also getting diabetes and such? I am just so confused by all the research and really so lost between vegans and keto. Hope you can help.
This is a big subject, but it’s not clear from the data that the Okinawans did not eat animal foods. They fried all their vegetables in lard, apparently. Also it’s true that the Japanese ate a great deal of rice without getting fat, but they did suffer from high rates of stroke and cerebral hemmorages (if I’m remembering correctly—this is in my book). I think it is quite possible that high-carbohydrate diets can be consistent with good health but there is also the reality that in many clinical trials, people become healthier when they reduce carbohydrates. Thus, what are possible explanations for this apparent contradiction? My own view is that perhaps the type of carbs matter: adding sugars to a high carb diet might make that diet less healthy. Or perhaps it is the high GRAIN diet that we eat that is unhealthy. I don’t think there is currently adequate research to answer this question. However, from the perspective of someone choosing a diet for better health in the current environment in the US, what we do know is that there is far more rigorous (clinical trial) data showing a low-carb diet is effective for improving health than for any other diet. By contrast, there is virtually no rigorous (clinical trial) evidence to show a vegan diet improves health.
I don’t mean to be argumentative, but this is in the abstract of your cited article. “The findings indicate that Americans’ consumption, on average, is below the dietary recommendations for fruit, vegetables, and dairy and above the recommendations for grains, protein foods, added fats and oils, and added sugars and sweeteners on the basis of a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet.” This seems to be in direct contradiction to your blog, which states “In nearly every way possible, Americans have followed official dietary advice.” While the data supports your claim that we have increased consumption of recommended foods, I feel it’s important to point out that this is not the same as having “followed official dietary advice.” I’m concerned that you have misconstrued the data. Thanks for your time.
Dear Emma, Both our statements are accurate. Americans have indeed followed government recommendations in changing their dietary habits. All trends in food consumption reflect changes in the direction recommended in the guidelines. However, it is also true that we have not achieved the targets. Why is that? In some cases, this is because the targets were always unrealistically ambitious: telling Americans to shift from 39% of carbs (what we ate in 1965) to 55% is a goal that we have still not achieved. In other cases, the goals have become more ambitious through the years. So, for instance, although we have increased consumption of fruit, the target for fruit has increased from 2 servings a day to 2.5 servings a day–so we have not kept up. The most important point is that there is no rigorous evidence at all that if Americans reached the targets, our health would be any better. All the clinical trials on the USDA recommended diet show that when people follow it, they do not get healthier–in any way (cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes). I’m glad that you wrote me with this point, since it is one that people often ask me, and I think it’s worth my writing a blog about.
Just saw you for the first time on Tucker Carlson last night and have been reading your blogs and watched a couple of your other interviews. Imagine that… the federal government being wrong for so long!!!
Do you have any insights regarding the increase in thyroid problems over the years – and the correlation with increased obesity? Thyroid controls metabolism. Low thyroid (hypothyroidism) slows down metabolism. With the increase in thyroid problems goes the increase in thyroid medications. What do you know about how thyroid is effected by the modern foods and how they are grow/raised and processed?
Thanks for your comment, Dave. I know that cruciferous vegetables are goitorgenic, which inhibit the absorption of iodine and therefore can contribute to thyroid problems. I am not aware, however, that the thyroid plays a major role in fat deposition. More powerful in the role of fat deposition is the role of hormones, especially insulin.
Nina, since you and Dave agree on the unknown and possibly negative impact of soy foods, I would be interested on your take with regard to this NIH study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5188409/.
While the author is a soy advocate, the multitude of study citations along with the the centuries of Asian consumption of soy suggest soy is an excellent addition to the western diet.
Your considered thoughts, please. Just ordered “The Big Fat Surprise” and looking forward to digging in. Thank you for your pioneering eyes.
Thank you for your comment. I have not investigated soy consumption. I know that it has not been demonstrated to improve cardiovascular risk factors over other sources of protein. In my book, I discuss the effects of soybean oil, which are generally not salubrious, since the process of extracting oil from soybeans results in a highly unstable product. Hope you enjoy the book!
Your book ‘The Big Fat Surprise’ was recommended to me by Dr. Trish Snozyk, who runs a program called Therapeutic Choices here in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Your book is simply mind-blowing! What an incredible job you did analyzing the plethora of flawed nutritional studies conducted over the past fifty years. It’s incredible that a few influential individuals so invested in proving the diet-heart hypothesis could keep the truth hidden for so long. Thank-you for bringing the truth to light.
In your answer to Sue you state that “Consumption of total fat has decreased since 1970”. That is not what the graph shows. Have I missed something ?