Americans Are Eating More — And More Often — Than Ever

More meals and snacks and bigger portion sizes have helped spur the nation’s obesity epidemic, a new study finds.

Americans’ average daily calorie intake has increased by 570 calories in the last 30 years — from 1,803 calories per day in 1977-1978 to 2,374 calories in 2003-2006 — according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Portion size increased the most between 1977-1978 and 1989-91, accounting for 15 additional calories per year, the study authors say, while a growing number of meals and snacks people ate added an an additional 38 calories per day between 1994-1998 and 2003-2006.

“This study shows how this epidemic has crept up on us. The negative changes in diet, activity and obesity continue and are leading to explosions in health-care costs and are leading us to become a less healthy society,” says lead author Barry Popkin, Ph.D. “These findings suggest that efforts to prevent obesity among adults in the U.S should focus on reducing the number of meals and snacks people consume during the day and reducing portion size as a way to reduce the energy imbalance caused by recent increases in energy intake.”

The study appears in the June 2011 issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.

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