National Geographic : 2004 Aug
USA: OVERFED NATION For all the Americans who've blamed bulging bellies on a slow metabolism, the jig is up. A report earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally confirms what many of us didn't want to admit: We're fat because we eat a lot-a whole lot more than we used to-and most of the increase comes from car bohydrates. Adult women are now eating 335 more calories per day than they did in 1971, while adult men have upped their daily Intake by 168 calories. We're talking excess pounds here-on our bodies and on our plates. We each ate 1,775 pounds of food in 2000, up from 1,497 pounds In 1970. At first glance, some of the increase looks good. We're eating more vegetables, Just like the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid, issued in 1992, advised. The only problem: Almost a third of these vegetables were Iceberg lettuce, french fries, and potato chips. And while we've outdone our selves in getting even more servings of "grains" than recommended, that doesn't mean we've grown fond of bulgur and millet. The grains we're eating are flour based items like pasta, tortillas, and hamburger buns, which have little more nutritional value than table sugar. Even the reduction of fat as a percentage of total calories Isn't real progress. The only reason the percentage Is down is that we're eating so much more of everything else. Does the report prove the case of carb-avoiding devotees of the Atkins and South Beach diets? It cer tainly doesn't contradict It, says Harvard epidemlolo gist Meir Stampfer. But he emphasizes that added sugars and processed carbs, not high-fiber carbs like whole grains, are the real culprits. The food pyramid guidelines told Americans to avoid fat and eat grains, so we loaded up on pasta and bread, says Stampfer. "The low-fat message backfired."