American children ate fewer calories in 2010 than they did a decade before, a new federal analysis shows. Health experts said the findings offered an encouraging sign that the epidemic of obesity might be easing.
The results of the research on childhood consumption patterns, the only federal analysis of calorie trends among children in recent years, came as a surprise to researchers. For boys, calorie consumption declined by about 7 percent to 2,100 calories a day over the period of the analysis, from 1999 through 2010. For girls, it fell 4 percent to 1,755 calories.
“To reverse the current prevalence of obesity, these numbers have to be a lot bigger," said Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “But they are trending in the right direction and that’s good news."
A drop in carbohydrate consumption drove the decline, a point of particular interest for those who study childhood obesity. Sugars are carbohydrates, and many argue that those added to food like cereal and soda during processing are at the heart of the childhood obesity epidemic.
Also, researchers said, while energy intake has not changed much for adults in recent years, fewer of their calories are coming from fast food. Obesity rates for adults have plateaued, but a third of adults are obese.