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February 23, 2015
Brattle Economists Author Report on Nutrition and the Rise of Obesity in the United States

Economists from The Brattle Group recently completed a study on dietary trends and the rising rates of obesity in the United States. The report finds that Americans are facing a substantial increase in obesity, despite general adherence to the nutrition advice of the American Heart Association and the United States Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

Their paper presents the first comprehensive analysis of data recorded by the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from the past 50 years, documenting how macronutrient consumption patterns and the average weight and body mass index in the U.S. adult population have evolved since the 1960s. Most notably, U.S. adult fat consumption has decreased by about 25% since the 1960s, from 45% of total calories in 1965 to 34% in 2011. There has been a corresponding increase in carbohydrate consumption from 39% of total calories to 51% over the same time period, an increase of about 30%.

The report, “Statistical review of U.S. macronutrient consumption data, 1965-2011: Americans have been following dietary guidelines, coincident with the rise in obesity,” was authored by Brattle principals Evan Cohen, Michael Cragg, and Bin Zhou, associate Jehan deFonseka, research analyst Melanie Rosenberg, and PhD student Adele Hite of North Carolina State University. It can be read on the journal Nutrition's website.