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Growing Food Portions Fuelling U.S. Obesity Epidemic

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Washington (dpa) - Steadily growing food portions in American restaurants and homes are fuelling the U.S. obesity epidemic, a new survey by the American Institute for Cancer Research has found.

The study found that Americans know little about appropriate food portions and do not consider the subject important to weight management, according to a report in Friday's Washington Post.

The survey is the latest to criticize the trend of super-sized portions offered by fast-food chains, a phenomenon that, researchers said, families have mimicked when preparing meals at home.

The institute said that while individuals are responsible for what they eat, fast-food chains, other restaurants and makers of prepared foods are distorting what Americans believe is an appropriate amount to eat.

The American Institute for Cancer Research, a Washington-based nonprofit group, arrived at its finding through previous research and random phone interviews with 1,011 adults in February.

A separate report by the U.S. government on Friday found that the number of overweight children aged 6 to 18 has increased from 6 per cent two decades ago to 15 per cent in 1999-2000, said CNN.

The figure was worst for African-American children, 22 per cent of whom were overweight, said the Report on America's Children by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The study - which also said U.S. children are smoking less, staying in school longer and that fewer girls are getting pregnant - found that they are also steadily growing fatter, the report said.

The U.S. surgeon-general has warned that the American obesity epidemic is becoming the nation's top public health threat, by increasing diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other illnesses.

Burger chain McDonald's and other fast-food companies have been targeted by lawsuits on behalf of obese consumers, reminiscent of legal cases that have cost the U.S. tobacco industry billions of dollars.

Early this month, the largest U.S. food manufacturer, Kraft Foods, said that it will join the fight against obesity by changing some of its recipes and reducing portion sizes.

The company - a subsidiary of Altria, which also owns tobacco giant Philip Morris - announced that it would encourage children to lead healthier lifestylesand stop marketing snacks at schools.

Copyright 2003 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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