Study finds Americans are eating more - and more often

Wed Jun 29, 2011 7:06pm EDT
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By Ned Barnett

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - Americans may be cutting back on super-sized meals, but waistlines continue to expand from more frequent eating, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The number of daily meals and snacks consumed by U.S. adults rose to 4.8 in 2006 from 3.8 in 1977, according to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers who examined surveys of daily eating habits over a 30-year period.

In the top 10 percent of those surveyed, the number of daily meals and snacks rose to seven from five.

The analysis also found that although the size of meal portions has stabilized in recent years, but the number of total calories consumed is rising.

By 2006, the end of the period studied, Americans were consuming 570 more calories per day than they did in the late 1970s.

A chief culprit behind the calorie gain: Americans now consume 220 more calories daily from sugar-sweetened soft drinks than they did in the 1960s, the study found.

The study is thought to be the first to examine the combined contribution of changes in portion sizes, the caloric level of foods, and eating frequency on people's total calorie consumption.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and the findings appear in the June 2011 issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.   Continued...

<p>People line up to buy food at a fast food restaurant in Harlem in New York December 16, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>