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Study: Higher energy intake, obesity affects all age groups, not just youths

CHAPEL HILL -- Between 1977 and 1996, all age groups across the country -- not just children and young adults -- boosted their energy intake by eating higher energy foods such as soft drinks and pizza, a trend responsible for the growing obesity epidemic, authors of a new study say.

When combined with less physical activity than in decades past, the greater energy consumption significantly raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and other health threats, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers say.

The study, conducted at the UNC schools of public health and medicine, also found that all age groups ate more restaurant food -- including fast food -- than a generation ago.

A report on the research appears in the May issue of Obesity Research, a professional journal. Authors are nutrition doctoral student Samara Joy Nielsen, and Drs. Anna Maria Siega-Riz and Barry Popkin, assistant professor of maternal and child health and nutrition and professor of nutrition, respectively, in the UNC schools of public health and medicine.

Dietary patterns are rapidly shifting in the United States, and these changes are important contributors to the growing epidemic of obesity and diabetes facing Americans, Popkin said. Clearly the problem is that Americans are eating too much food. The shifts in where we are eating, as well as the types of food, are critical.

This new study makes an important contribution by showing how uniform the changes in the types of food eaten and the locations of food consumption are across all age groups, he said. This is not a problem that only faces teens or young adults but one that faces all Americans.

Nielsen said the research involved analyzing nationally representative data from the 1977-78 Nationwide Food Consumption Survey and three separate Continuing Surveys of Food Intake by Individuals. She and her mentors divided the overall sample of 63,380 people into
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Contact: David Williamson
david_williamson@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
10-May-2002


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