Healthy Eating Statistics

The numbers speak for themselves – we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Below you will find some alarming healthy eating statistics, categorized by general health statistics, fast food statistics, and childhood obesity statistics. Click on the links or scroll down to see some of these statistics!

General Health Statistics

Fast Food Statistics

Obesity Statistics

Childhood Obesity Statistics

Healthy Eating Statistics: General Health

• A 2012 study published in the British Medical Journal showed that getting regular exercise, eating right and avoiding bad habits like smoking could help elderly women live five years longer and elderly men live six years longer.

• According to the Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the largest, most extensive studies ever conducted on health and nutrition, the foods that contributed the most to weight gain are french fries, potato chips, sugar-sweetened drinks, red meats and processed meats, sweets and desserts, refined grains, fried foods, 100-percent fruit juice, and butter (these results were published in June 2011 in the New England Journal of Medicine)

• The CDC has stated that 75 percent of healthcare spending goes to treating preventable chronic diseases, most of which are diet-related.

• These studies also found that increased intake of dairy products had a neutral effect on weight.

• The Nurses’ Health Study also found that weight loss was greatest among people who ate more vegetables, yogurt, and nuts

• Healthier diets could save the United States $87 billion per year.

• A 2011 AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll found that more Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) worry about cancer and memory loss than heart disease … even though the lifetime risk of women getting coronary heart disease is one in three compared to one in eight for getting breast cancer

• According to the American Heart Association and World Health Organization, you shouldn’t consume more than 7% of your total calories from saturated fat

• Top nutritionists at Harvard have concluded that trans fat could be responsible for an many as 30,000 premature coronary deaths per year

• The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of trans fats you eat to less than 1% of your total daily calories, which is less than 2 grams per day for a 2,000 calorie diet

Swapping “white” carbs for whole grains may lower your risk for heart disease by 33%

• According to a 2008 report in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, eating chicken, fish, or eggs instead of red meat and dairy just one day a week for a year would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to not driving 760 miles. Eating no meat one day a week for a year is equivalent to not driving 1,160 miles.

• The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.4 grams of protein for every pound of body weight per day

• In a National Institutes of Health study, men and women with pre-hypertension who reduced their sodium intake by 25 to 35% had a 25% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease over the 10 to 15 years after they reduced their sodium intake

• The average American drinks 526 12-oz sodas per year … that’s 1.5 cans each day. Swap those empty calories for water and you’ll cut out over 6,000 calories per month … which amounts to 21 pounds of weight loss in a year

• A 2011 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that:

1. The average male consumes 175 calories a day from drinks containing added sugar (like soda)
2. The average female consumes 94 calories from these drinks
3. About half of the population drinks a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day

• A study published in December 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that a single dollar could purchase 1,200 calories of cookies or potato chips, but only 250 calories of carrots. The study concluded that energy-dense foods are not only the least expensive, but also most resistant to inflation, which may help explain why the highest rates of obesity continue to be observed among groups of limited economic means

• The American Heart Association recommends getting no more than 450 calories a week from sugar-sweetened beverages, or less than three cans of soda. They include sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports and sweetened bottled waters

• By eating at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits a day, you can reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease by 30%, lose weight, and enhance your immune system so you don’t get sick as often

• According to the World Watch Institute, a typical Sunday meal in a mid-western U.S. state consisting of beef, potatoes and vegetables travels an average of 1,600 miles

• Men and women do an hour of cardio per day for an entire year, they only lose 4-6 pounds on average, according to the journal Obesity

• People on average end up overeating by over 250 calories per day when they start a cardio program and end up GAINING weight, according to the International Journal of Obesity

• Harvard researchers published results of a meta analysis of 33 studies on exercise’s benefits in the August 2011 issue of the journal Circulation. They found that getting 150 minutes of exercise per week cut heart disease risk by 14%; 300 minutes a week decreased heart disease risk by 20%; and 750 minutes cut the risk by 25%

• People who do the four things below live on average an additional 14 years compared with people who adopt none of these behaviors, according to a study published in the journal PLoS Medicine from the Public Library of Science:

1. Don’t smoke
2. Exercise
3. Drink alcohol in moderation
4. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day

Healthy Eating Statistics: Fast Food

• Americans are now spending over $190 billion on fast food each year

healthy eating statistics
• There are now over 200,000 fast food restaurants in the U.S.

• The fast-food industry spends $4.2 billion on advertising each year (and $660 million on marketing to children and teenagers)

• A cheeseburger happy meal with fries and a Sprite at McDonalds has 640 calories and 24 grams of fat. This is over half of the total calories many children should be eating in a day

• The average serving size for burgers, fries, and sodas has more than tripled since the 1970’s

• A recent study published in the July 2011 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association compared laboratory measurements of calories in 269 food items with the restaurants’ stated calories. Researchers found that 19% of food items had at least 100 calories more than listed and only 7% of the 269 foods tested were within 10 calories of what the restaurants stated

Healthy Eating Statistics: Obesity

obesity statistics• According to researchers from the University of Oxford and Columbia University (as published in the August 2011 issue of The Lancet medical journal), if current obesity trends continue:
− Half of people in the U.S. will be obese by 2030
− Spending on obesity-related causes will rise by 13% to 16% each year
− There will be 7.8 million more people with diabetes, 6.8 million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and 539,000 extra cases of cancer
− UK obesity rates will rise from 26% among men to between 41% and 48% and from 26% among females to between 35% and 43%

• Diet and exercise outweigh genetics when it comes to being obese. Swedish scientists reporting in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that the FTO gene, which previous studies have linked to weight gain, will only increase your risk of obesity if you also lead a sedentary lifestyle

• More than one third of U.S. adults—more than 72 million people—and 16% of U.S. children are obese, according to the CDC*

*However, a 2012 research study led by Dr. Eric Braverman, president of the nonprofit research group the Path Foundation, found that the standard measure of obesity, BMI, grossly underestimates the number of people who are actually obese. The study found that when researchers used a more accurate measure of obesity called the duel-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) machine, nearly 60% of people were obese. Read more here.

• 2/3 of Americans are now either overweight or obese

• Since 1980, obesity rates for adults have doubled and rates for children have tripled

• 35% of adult women and 40% of adults aged 40-59 are obese

• If trends continue at the current rate, 100% of Americans will be overweight or obese by the year 2048

• Among Americans age 20 and older, 142 million are overweight or obese
− 73 million men
− 69 million women

• Of these 142 million overweight or obese people, 67 million are obese
− 30.7 million men
− 36.7 million women

• From 1960 to 2004, the prevalence of overweight increased from 44.8% to 66% in U.S. adults age 20 to 74

• From 1960 to 2004, the prevalence of obesity increased from 13.3% to 32.1% in U.S. adults age 20 to 74, with most of this rise occurring since 1980

Healthy Eating Statistics: Childhood Obesity

• According to the CDC, 30% of children aged 2-19 are considered overweight or obese and it has been estimated than 1 in 3 children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime

• Over the past three decades the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years, and it has more than tripled for children aged 6-11 years

• Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults (this increases to 80% if one or more parent is overweight or obese)

• 13.9 percent of children two to five years of age, 18.8 percent of children six to 11 years of age, and 17.4 percent of adolescents 12 to 19 years of age in America are obese

• Among infants and children between 6 and 23 months, the prevalence of obesity rose from 7.2% in 1976-1980 to 11.5% in 2003-2004

• Nearly 14% of children between the ages of 2 and 5 were overweight in 2003-2004, up from 10.3% in 1999-2000

• Children who are considered overweight have a 70% chance of becoming overweight adults

• Among overweight children and teens between the ages of 2 and 19 (or their parents), 36.7% reported ever having been told by a doctor or HCP that they were overweight
− For those between the ages of 2 and 5, this percentage was 17.4%

• Being obese increases a child’s risk for some serious childhood medical problems, including:
– Asthma
– Heart disease and high blood pressure
– Sleep apnea and breathing problems
– Bone conditions, such as hip problems
– Gastro-intestinal diseases
– Early puberty
– Psychological problems, like poor self-esteem and depression

• Obese children are more than twice as likely to have diabetes as non-obese children

• An as-yet-unpublished study led by Dr Geetha Raghueveer, from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine, was presented at the recent American Heart Association conference in New Orleans. The researchers found that the artery walls of obese children and teens, or those who have high cholesterol, are as thick as artery walls in the average 45-year-old

• A 2011 report from the U.S. Economic Research Service titled “The Effect of Food and Beverage Prices on Children’s Weights” found that lower prices for some healthier foods, such as lowfat milk and dark green vegetables, are associated with decreases in children’s BMI. In contrast, lower prices for soda, 100-percent juices, starchy vegetables, and sweet snacks are associated with increases in children’s BMI

• With children, measuring BMI and taking action if it’s too high can actually help prevent heart disease from developing

• In children who are overweight, between 25 percent and 40 percent will have the metabolic syndrome that sets the stage for diabetes and heart problems

“The prevalence of overweight among adolescents in the United States has nearly tripled in the past two decades… Type 2 diabetes, previously considered an adult disease, has increased dramatically in children and adolescents. Overweight and obesity are closely linked to type 2 diabetes.”
— U.S. Surgeon General

“During the mid-1990s, type 2 diabetes in youth increased ten-fold in the US, and mirrored the childhood obesity epidemic.”
— Dr. Kaufman (“Childhood Obesity: The Declining Health of America’s Next Generation,” testimony before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families, July 16, 2008)

“Treatment is never as good as prevention.”
—Gordon F. Tomaselli, President of the American Heart Association and professor and director of the division of cardiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

“Conventional wisdom — to eat everything in moderation, eat fewer calories and avoid fatty foods — isn’t the best approach”
—Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health


This article is #1 in my 10-part Healthy Eating 201 tutorial.

To go to the next article #2 and learn about the benefits of eating organic food click here.

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