Fast-Food Calorie Consumption Declines in U.S., CDC Says

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

While researchers couldn’t say why adults were eating less fast food, the decline coincides with a leveling off in the prevalence of obesity, according to January reports from the CDC. Close

While researchers couldn’t say why adults were eating less fast food, the decline... Read More

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Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

While researchers couldn’t say why adults were eating less fast food, the decline coincides with a leveling off in the prevalence of obesity, according to January reports from the CDC.

Americans say they’re filling up less on fast food and pizza, according to a U.S. survey.

Adults consumed an average of 11.3 percent of their daily calories from fast food in 2007-2010, a drop from 12.8 percent in 2003-2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said in a report today. The largest proportion of fast food calories consumed was among obese people, the survey shows.

While researchers couldn’t say why adults were eating less fast food, the decline coincides with a leveling off in the prevalence of obesity, according to January reports from the CDC. More than 78 million U.S. adults and about 12.5 million children were obese in 2009-2010, according to those studies reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, and frequent fast-food consumption has been shown to contribute to weight gain,” Cheryl Fryar, a health statistician at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, wrote in today’s report.

The U.S. has the largest fast-food industry in the world, generating $191 billion in annual sales, according to IBISWorld, a research company based in Santa Monica, California. McDonald’s Corp. (MCD), the world’s biggest restaurant chain, generated $27.6 billion in sales last year, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

During 2007-2010, the highest percentage of calories from fast food was consumed by adults who were age 20-39 or non- Hispanic black or obese, according to the CDC survey. Among young non-Hispanic black adults in that age group, more than one-fifth of their daily calories was from fast food.

Pizza Places

Respondents in the survey were asked to identify where they got food within the past 24 hours, and places identified as “restaurant fast food/pizza” were considered fast food. No restaurant names or specific food items were disclosed.

“The reason we looked at it is fast food consumption has a link to obesity, and we did find that,” Fryar said by telephone. A total of 11,181 adults were queried, she said.

McDonald’s, based in Oak Brook, Illinois, has begun posting calorie information on menu boards. A federal regulation proposed in April 2011 would require chain restaurants with more than 20 locations to display calorie contents.

The percentage of daily calories from fast food decreased with age, with adults age 60 and over consuming the least at 6 percent, according to the report. The percentage rose as weight status increased.

The percentage didn’t differ significantly between men and women, according to the report.

No significant differences were found between non-Hispanic whites and Hispanic adults, the CDC said. However, among adults age 20 and over, consumption was higher among non-Hispanic black adults than non-Hispanic white and Hispanic adults.

Child Trends

No difference was observed by income status in the percentage of calories eaten from fast food. However, in the youngest age group -- those 20 to 39 -- consumption dropped significantly with increasing income level.

In a separate study also released today, the CDC found calorie intake of all food among youths age 2 through 19 fell between the 1999-2000 period and 2009-2010. The percentage of calories from protein, carbohydrates and fat fell within recommendations for this age group, the study shows.

The share of calories from saturated fat, 11 percent to 12 percent, was still more than the 10 percent recommended in U.S. dietary guidelines, according to the report.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Armour in Washington at sarmour@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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