The majority of Americans’ caloric intake comes from food purchases made at supermarkets, grocery- and convenience stores, a new study has found.
conducted by Dr. Adam Drewnowski of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at
the University of Washington in Seattle on behalf of the National Restaurant Association, determined that food purchased from restaurants accounts for
between 17 percent and 26 percent of Americans’ total caloric intake, based on
The percentages are
lower than many public-health activists have cited in urging cities and states
to impose new restrictions on some restaurant foods and beverages.
Between 63 percent
and 70 percent of caloric intake in the U.S. diet came from purchases made at
supermarkets, grocery- and c-stores. The balance comes from school foods and
other sources, the research found.
study, which was published in the Nutrition Journal, looked at the purchase
locations and specific food sources of 22,852 people in the United States, including
children aged 6 years to adults aged 51 years or older. The study was based on
five years of data from 2003 to 2008 from the National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey, or NHANES.
Dr. Joy Dubost, the
NRA’s director of nutrition, said the study provides the first real in-depth
analysis of the caloric intake of different age groups by specific food
location and food source.
“This study really
is the first to look at caloric intake from purchase location and food
categories by age group,” she said. “It dispels the notion that one-third of
caloric intake in this country comes from restaurant food. Depending on age,
the percentage of calories from either quickservice or fullservice restaurants
can be much less.”
According to the
study, food intake at quickservice restaurants represented between 12.5 percent
and 17.5 percent of calories, while fullservice restaurants made up between 4.7
percent and 10.4 percent. School meals provided 9.8 percent of calories for
children and 5.5 percent for adolescents.
further found that sugar-sweetened beverages served at quickservice restaurants
made up between 1.0 and 1.4 percent of people’s caloric intake, whereas
store-sourced sugary beverages made up four times that amount.
Dubost said the
finding disproves the claim by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his
administration that a ban on sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants would
reduce the rising obesity rate in that city.
On June 11 a state
appeals court heard arguments regarding the ban and is now considering whether
to reverse a judge’s ruling last March that struck down a regulation limiting
the size of sugar-sweetened beverages sold at restaurants, delis, movie
theaters, stadiums and arenas, to 16 ounces.
“The data show that
restaurants do not largely contribute to the consumption of sugar-sweetened
beverages,” Dubost said. “This will help us combat some policy initiatives that
are based on myth and misperceptions, not on solid science.”
She added that the
data would also help restaurateurs become more aware of which restaurant foods
are the biggest contributors of calories to Americans’ diets.
“The industry as a
whole has a role to play in fighting the obesity epidemic,” she said. “This
data will help inform us, as we continue to try to reduce calories in the