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Total Energy Intake and Nutrient Choices among US Adults

By: NCSF  on:  Apr 15 2011
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A new report by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) heeds the Surgeon General’s recent proposition to aggressively address the elevated prevalence of obesity in the U.S. adult population by examining trends related to energy intake and macronutrient consumption from 1999-2000 through 2007-2008. It is the intention that by understanding these trends, the development and assessment of program and policy initiatives designed for nutrition education and obesity prevention can be attainable. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), being the primary national data system for information used to monitor the nutritional status of the U.S. population was used to develop this report. A previous study using NHANES data on trends related to intake of energy and macronutrients from 1971-1974 through 1999-2000 revealed statistically significant increases in intake of energy (total kcals) and carbohydrates, and a decrease in intake of fat expressed as a percentage in both men and women. The present report looks to highlight current estimates of intake of energy and intake of protein, carbohydrate, total fat, and saturated fat, and to evaluate trends within genders and ethnic groups over a large portion of the previous decade.

The following are key energy and macronutrient trends from 1999-2000 through 2007-2008 highlighted within the NCHS report:

  • Average Energy Intake
    • The average daily energy intake in 2007-2008 was 2,504 kcals for men and 1,771 kcals for women
    • There were no statistically significant increases or decreases in total energy intake during the total study period
    • Non-Hispanic white men had higher energy intakes than non-Hispanic black or Mexican-American men in 2007-2008, but this was not consistent over the entire study period
  • Average Macronutrient Intake in 2007-2008 (expressed as percent of total energy)
    • Average carbohydrate intake was 47.9% of total kcals for men and 50.5% of total kcals for women
    • Average protein intake was 15.9% of total kcals for men and 15.5% of total kcals for women
    • Average total fat intake was 33.6% of total kcals for men and 33.5% of total kcals for women
    • Average saturated fat intake was 11.0% of total kcals for men and 11.1% of total kcals for women
  • Over the study period, an increase in protein intake was found among men and women; intake increased from 15.6% of total kcals to 15.9% of total kcals among men and it increased from 15.2% of total kcals to 15.5% of total kcals among women
  • Over the study period, an increase in total fat intake was found among non-Hispanic black men and women; intake increased from 30.5% of total kcals to 33.7% of total kcals in men and an increase from 32.1% of total kcals to 34.4% of total kcals in women.
  • Over the study period, saturated fat intake increased among non-Hispanic black men and women as well as non-Hispanic white women.

Overall energy intake appeared somewhat stable but average carbohydrate intake decreased and average protein intake increased in both men and women. These changes are somewhat modest in magnitude but signify that statistically significant population-level trends have taken place. Some of the examined trends warrant further investigation. It is important to note that in 2007-2008, none of the groups examined met the recommendation in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to consume less than 10% of energy from saturated fat. There was also a statistically significant upward trend in saturated fat intake in non-Hispanic black men and women as well as non-Hispanic white women. Updated analysis of trends related to the prevalence of obesity for the period of 2007-2008 indicate no significant increase from the initial study period of 1999-2000 for women; however there was a significant increase for men although only for the period from 1999-2000 to 2001-2002. This does not reflect the relatively stable trends in total energy intake seen within this report but many factors can affect the prevalence of obesity within a given population.

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