http://www.dailyreviewonline.com/Stories/0,1413,88~10973~1939334,00.html Calorie increase linked to carbs Findings could reinforce current trend to avoid pastas and breads By Anahad O'Connor, New York Times We knew we ate more; we knew we had gained weight. Now a new study that looked at 30 years of Americans' eating habits has pinned down how many more calories, carbohydrates and fats are eaten daily. From 1971 to 2000, the study found, women increased their caloric intake by 22 percent, men by 7 percent. Much of the change was found to be due to an increase in the amount of carbohydrates we have been eating. The findings may reinforce the current trend among those sometimes known as carb-avoids, of reducing or even eliminating foods like breads and pastas. And while the percentage of calories Americans get from fat, especially saturated fats, has decreased, the numbers might be deceiving. The actual amount of fat eaten on a daily basis has gone up. It just makes up a smaller percentage of the total caloric pie now that we are eating so many more carbs. The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and reported in its current Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that in 1971, women ate 1,542 calories on average, compared with today's 1,877, while men went from 2,450 calories a day to 2,618. Those numbers dwarf the government's recommendations of 1,600 calories a day for women and 2,200 for men. Cookies, pasta, soda and other carbohydrates appear to be mostly to blame. Among women, carbs jumped from about 45 percent of the daily caloric intake to almost 52 percent. For men, they grew from 42 percent to 49. "This just confirms that Americans need to be more focused on a total calorie decrease," said Jacqueline Wright, an epidemiologist at the CDC and the author of the study. Wright said it was unclear whether the study would influence a revision of the Agriculture Department's familiar food pyramid, which currently emphasizes a diet rich in breads and grains. The findings come at a time when public health officials are concerned about a national epidemic of bulging waistlines. According to the National Institutes of Health, two-thirds of Americans are overweight and one-third are obese. Between 1971 and 2000, obesity rates more than doubled -- a result, many experts say, of an obsession with oversized portions. According to the report, most of the surge in caloric intake occurred in two periods, from 1976 to 1980 and from 1988 to 1994. An earlier report by Dr. Lisa Young of New York University tied that increase to decisions by national restaurant chains to expand portions of foods like French fries and hamburgers. Serving sizes, Young found, became two to five times bigger in those years, and cookbooks joined the trend by increasing the portion sizes in recipes. It is no surprise, said Dr. Gary Foster, the clinical director of the weight and eating disorders program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, that "we've become more overweight as a country as candy bars are now king-sized and sodas are supersized." "It's much tougher to manage your weight in this environment than it was in 1970," Foster said. Part of the problem, some experts say, may stem from the traditional dietary advice to steer clear of fatty foods. That advice, they say, helped set off an explosion of "fat-free" carbohydrate-laden foods that Americans mistakenly believed they could eat with few consequences. "It's been the standard advice for decades that Americans should follow lower-fat, high-carb diets," said Dr. Meir Stamp-fer, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "But now it's backfiring. It's clear that this doesn't work because it's not as satiating and people just start eating more calories. This report doesn't demonstrate that, but the results are consistent with it." The notion that carbohydrates can lead to weight gain has become the mantra of millions of dieters. On the Atkins program, for example, people can get up to two-thirds of their calories from fat and are allowed to eat fatty foods like hamburgers, as long as the bun is set aside. Wright said it was not clear what influence the popularity of low-carb diets would have in the long term, but added that the increase in carbohydrate consumption had not been as significant in the most recent surveys as it was in earlier years. But saturated fat is still a concern, and experts warned that the latest figures should not be taken as direct support for any of the low-carb diets. Instead, Wright said, they should be a reminder to Americans to eat less and exercise regularly. Foster said: "This doesn't tell us anything about the effectiveness of any one dietary approach. It suggests that we've been eating more calories over time and that most of it is coming from carbs. But particular diets need to be tested and supported by clinical trials."