Americans Getting Fatter
By The Day - US To
Step Up Fat Attack
By Barbara Hagenbaugh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Armed with a slew of reports that Americans are getting fatter by the day, the U.S. Agriculture Department said Wednesday it was stepping up its assault on poor eating habits.
Starting early next year, the department said it will launch a Web site where Americans can evaluate their diets and track changes in their eating.
The USDA said it will also hold a national summit to focus more attention on healthy eating and will bring together researchers, academics and food industry experts to analyze why Americans eat what they do.
``You've got to figure out what motivates people so you can try to help them modify their diets,'' Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said at a symposium to discuss food choice.
Just last week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said the prevalence of obesity, defined as being more than 30 percent above ideal body weight, increased to 17.9 percent of the U.S. population in 1998 from 12 percent in 1991.
The CDC said the figures likely underestimate the problem because people tend to downplay their own weight. The study was based on a survey of more than 100,000 participants selected randomly each year.
Glickman said making Americans thinner involves a lot more than eating well.
Americans need to get off their couches and chairs and exercise more, he said, pointing to the increased time U.S. citizens spend watching television, sitting in front of computer screens at work and surfing the Internet at home.
``The ultimate challenge falls to the American people to take responsibility for their own health, to improve their diets and increase physical activity,'' Glickman said,
Researchers told the USDA symposium that while studies continue to evaluate why consumers choose the food they do, many children learn eating habits from their parents.
But forbidding kids from eating unhealthy snacks only makes them want to eat more of the off-limits food when they are away from their parents, and eventually those kids eat more of those foods, said Dr. Leann Birch of Pennsylvania State University.
Birch also said that as kids get older, their food portions get bigger, which could be a factor in higher obesity rates.
The Clinton Administration will release its revised dietary guidelines next year, spelling out what Americans should eat and in what quantities. Groups from the American Association of Retired Persons to sugar and meat industry groups have been lobbying the government over what changes should be made.
Glickman acknowledged the new guidelines would likely be controversial, but said it is the government's role to guide Americans into adopting a healthier lifestyle.