Calorie and Activity Statistics Explain America's Weight Problem
December 04, 2013
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By: Douglas Anderson, DC, DACBSP, CCN

Recently, a national online news magazinecame out with what may be developing into an annual event.  For the third straight year, the magazine asked experts to rate diets.  In this case, 19 panelists ranked 29 diets for a number of categories including weight loss.  Since every diet has supporters and only one can have the highest ranking, this exercise can start as many arguments as ranking the 29 cutest breeds of puppies.  After I read what they had to say, rather than getting pulled into a food fight (pun intended), my thoughts centered on why we need so many diets as decided it was time for an obesity update.

Even though the American Medical Association reclassified obesity as a disease during its 2013 annual meeting (more on that next month), America's obesity explosion appears to have leveled off.  In fact, the U.S. is no longer the fattest nation on Earth, having just been passed by Mexico.  The bad news is that almost seven out of 10 adults in America need to lose weight.  The reason is simple - too many calories ingested, too few calories expended.

Body mass index (BMI) is a popular way for epidemologists to classify the weight of large groups of people.  BMI is calculated in the following ways: body weight in kilograms divided by the height in meters squared; or body weight in pounds divided by the height in inches, squared and multipled by 705.

The BMI is fairly accurate for normal people.  It is not as accurate for extremely short people or athletic people (heavy exercisers) of normal size, and completely inaccurate for those who are heavily muscled.  BMI accuracy improves when used to compare large sample sizes.

Americans went on a 25-year bender from 1975 to 2000.  Although I elected to list data at five-year intervals, from 2000 to 2007, America hit a seven-year calorie plateau.  From 2008 to 2010, there were slight declines for three straight years - something not seen since 1972 to 1975.

If you compare 1975 with 2010, you will see an increase of approximately 484 calories per day, 92 percent of which (about 446 calories) is from grains, added fats and added sugars.  The approximate breakdown in terms of calories from fats and approximately 209 calories from carbohydrates.

While the anti-fat and anti-carb crowds continue to blame each other for America's weight problem, the data shows that seven out of 10 Americans didn't become overweight from a single macronutrient.  The best chancefor success is to tailor a program to fit a person's specific needs.  This conflicts with the current model of having people conform to a program.

Insufficient activity is the other major factor in the fattening of America.  In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published new exercise guidelines.


1. "Diet Plans That Work: U.S. News Best Diets." U.S. News and World Report, January 2013.

2. National Center for Health Statistics: Health, United States, 2012: With Special Feature on Emergency Care.  Hyattsville, MD, 2013;

3. Schiller JS, Lucas JW, Ward BW,Peregoy JA. Summary of health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2010.  National Center for Health Stastics.  Vital Health Stat, 2012; 10 (252): 100.

4. National Center for Health Statistics, Op Cit; Table 67, p. 215.