Fast Food Nation: American Adults Cut Back On Calories, But Kids Are Still Eating Too Much Fat

American children are still consuming far too many calories from fatty foods, even as U.S. adults have made modest cuts in their caloric intakes, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Between 2009 and 2010, American adults cut back on eating pizzas, french fries, and other greasy fast foods by about two percent — and while children also reduced their caloric consumption in the aggregate, they still received a high share of their daily calories from saturated fats during that time period:

Recommended U.S. guidelines suggest that no more than 10 percent of one’s daily calories should come from such fat, but American youth took in between 11 percent and 12 percent from 2009 to 2010, data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics showed.

Americans’ diets and weight is a source of constant scrutiny and research in a country where two-thirds of the population is considered overweight or obese. According to the CDC, 36 percent of U.S. adults, or 78 million, and 17 percent of youth, or 12.5 million, are obese. Another third are overweight. […]

Still, Americans lead the world in calorie consumption. Portion sizes also have increased over the years, coupled with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, have added up to extra pounds. Complications from obesity include diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and some cancers.

What is particularly worrying about the report is the fact that “those who are already obese” are among the groups that consumed the most unhealthy foods, highlighting the fact that not only does America remain ill-equipped to prevent obesity in its nascent stages, but is also failing to improve obese Americans’ health after the fact. That doesn’t bode well for national health expenditures, considering that somewhere between 10 and 12 percent of all health insurance spending is driven by obesity-related conditions.

Furthermore, the obesity epidemic is disproportionately impacting black Americans, who are more likely to excessively consume fatty and sugary foods. That isn’t just a coincidence — the food industry is notorious for its efforts to undermine public health with misleading ad campaigns and product information opacity, and those efforts are often targeted in low-income, racially diverse communities. Soda advertising campaigns in particular take aim at poor, young black Americans, contributing to a status quo where low-income black youth are far more likely to consume calories from sugary drinks.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any progress in the war on American obesity. Public health advocates have successfully lobbied major food companies to cut back on sodium in their products, and are now asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to pass rules cracking down on sweeteners in foods and drinks. The FDA has also taken efforts to eliminate fatty foods from school lunch menus. Still, the FDA and American food manufacturers could — and should — do much more, as historical evidence shows that localities with aggressive nutrition policies experienced significant drops in childhood obesity.