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Americans Diet Heavy in Fat and Empty Calories

Americans Diet Heavy in Fat and Empty Calories

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingNew research from UC Berkeley may shed some light on why Americans are so fat. The study found nearly one-third of the daily calories consumed by adults come from junk food, sugary drinks and beer.

There's some truth to the old saying you are what you eat. And what Americans are dining on every day is high in fat and empty calories.

The UC Berkeley study looked at the eating habits of nearly 5,000 adults who recorded everything they ate for a year. The results are alarming: Americans are eating large quantities of sugar and fat with little or no nutrition.

The top ten foods on our plates -- and around our bellies -- are soft drinks, cakes and sweets, burgers, pizza, chips, rice, bread, cheese, beer and french fried potatoes.

These foods make up nearly a third of all the calories Americans consume every day -- without a single fruit or green veggie in sight.

William Dietz, MD, PhD, Centers for Disease Control: "Much easier to consume fast food than to consume fruits and vegetables."

Doctor William Dietz is director of the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Centers for Disease Control. He says unhealthy food choices help explain why two out of three Americans today are either overweight or obese. And the situation is costing us more than our good health.

Dr. Dietz: "It's estimated about 117 billion dollars a year is spent on medical care related to obesity. That's roughly 10% of the national health care budget."

Kelly Brownell, PhD, Yale University "People are exposed to a pretty terrible food environment, where food is accessible, cheap, very heavily promoted."

Dr. Kelly Brownell is the director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders. He says American economic policies favor certain foods - such as corn, meat and dairy. And that government subsidies and the food industry need to focus more on fruits and veggies, and push healthier foods.

Dr. Brownell: "The average American child sees 10,000 food ads a year just on TV alone. And all of them are for foods like candy, soft drinks, fast foods and sugar cereals."

But the Berkeley study also notes that while Americans are eating too much calorie-dense, nutrient poor foods, they're also expending less energy. The number one physical activity that's cited by Americans is "driving a car".

You talk about nutrient poor foods, does that mean Americans are malnourished? This report seems to suggest we're over-nourished. The report actually highlights the possibility that the obesity epidemic is linked to another epidemic - that of under-nutrition.

That's why Dr. Gladys Block of UC Berkeley - who is the author of the study - recommends weight reduction campaigns emphasize not eating less, but eating differently.

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