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Are Americans' Eating Less?

YES or so say experts and the NY Times. 

After decades of worsening diets and sharp increases in obesity, Americans’ eating habits have begun changing for the better.

Calories consumed daily by the typical American adult, which peaked around 2003, are in the midst of their first sustained decline since federal statistics began to track the subject, more than 40 years ago. The number of calories that the average American child takes in daily has fallen even more — by at least 9 percent.

The declines cut across most major demographic groups — including higher- and lower-income families, and blacks and whites — though they vary somewhat by group.

In the most striking shift, the amount of full-calorie soda drunk by the average American has dropped 25 percent since the late 1990s.

As calorie consumption has declined, obesity rates appear to have stopped rising for adults and school-aged children and have come down for the youngest children, suggesting the calorie reductions are making a difference.

The story goes on to point out that while obesity rates are down, school age kids are still at risk for childhood diabetes and other weight related illness due large in part to the lack of fruits and vegetables in the "food desert" sections of US major cities.

In piece published in Prevention Magazine last year, they claim

most Americans are also stepping away from the meat counter.

Quoting Prevention: "In a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults, 39% of participants say they ate less beef in 2013 than in 2012. More than half of those people say the move is due to health reasons, and many also say it's economics—58% of consumers have noticed prices creepy upward over the last year and 36% say it's too expensive to buy as often as they like.

One nutrition expert isn't surprised. "The most expensive things on grocery lists are alcohol and meat," says Dawn Blattner, RDN, author of The Flexitarian Diet. And meat prices are likely to rise 3%-4% in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In short, many of us are starting to see beef as an indulgence rather than an everyday food—90% of those surveyed said they ate red meat at least once a month, and when they do eat it, many buy beef that's higher quality. Most likely that means organic considering that organic meat gained the most in sales out of all organic food categories in the last decade, reports the USDA. "It's more expensive because the animals are fed 100% organic feed," Blattner says. "They aren't given antibiotics or growth hormones, so extra precautions have to be taken so animals don't get sick. The average size of the animal is also smaller, so there's a smaller yield," she says."

And for everyone here at SM8, the news from ZME Science is even more encouraging.

Whether it’s Meatless Monday, Weekday Vegetarianism or simply cutting down meat consumption – people from developed countries are eating less meat, and it’s already making a difference. Even though some argue that cutting-back-consumption campaigns don’t push enough of a paradigm-shift, we’re already seeing the changes: 400 million animals were spared in the US alone in 2014 because people ate less meat.

Some 93 percent of people still eat meat and it’s difficult to imagine a future where most people won’t, but a world that eats less meat is already on the right way. According to a new report, meat consumption has been steadily declining in the U.S.—by 10% per capita since 2007. In 2014, the U.S. raised and killed 9.5 billion land animals for food, but 400 million (almost 4%) were saved simply because people skipped a few meaty meals.

So why is this a good thing? Aside for the ethical reason of saving the animals themselves why is eating less meat a good thing?

The reasons can be split into two main categories: it’s good for you, and it’s good for the planet.

Why eating less meat is good for you:

  • reduce cancer risk; hundreds of studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Both red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer.
  • reduce heart disease risk; it’s well known that (especially red) meat increases heart disease risk and can damage blood circulation.
  • reduce diabetes risk; research suggests that higher consumption of red and processed meat increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • reduce obesity; people on low-meat or vegetarian diets have significantly lower body weights and body mass indices.
  • live longer; red and processed meat consumption is associated with increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.
  • improve the quality of your diet; if you eat less meat, you’ll have the chance to substitute it with a healthy alternative. For example, consuming beans or peas results in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat.

Why eating less meat is good for the planet:

  • reduce your carbon footprint; the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions – far more than even transportation. Other foods don’t generate as much greenhouse gas.
  • reduce water usage; the water needs of livestock are huge, far outweighing vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound.
  • reduce fossil fuel dependence; on average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein.

Paul Shapiro, Vice President, Farm Animal Protection for The Humane Society of the United States explains:

“What all this means is that compared to 2007, last year almost half a billion fewer animals were subjected to the torment of factory farming and industrial slaughter plants–and that’s despite the increase in the U.S. population,” 

So whether it's that Americans' are just figuring out that gorging themselves and grazing (pardon the livestock reference here) on snacks and unhealthy junk food less, or the cost of the red stuff is just too much to budget for, whatever the reasons it's pretty amazing to think the US as a whole might just be getting wise to the benefits of a healthier diet and in turn, living longer, more active lives.
Smooth 8 is always right there investigating and participating in the science and news that matters to YOU and your good health - bringing antioxidant / alkaline drops to your wellness program is how we work to be a part of the global solution. Until next time...




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Thanks to the writers at The New York Times, Prevention Magazine and ZME Science for most of this original content.

Follow the New York Times on Twitter at @nytimes. Follow Prevention on Facebook at www.facebook.com/preventionmagazine

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