NEWS8 August 2016

Snacking and out-of-home eating mean calorie intake is under-estimated

Behavioural economics FMCG Healthcare News Retail Trends UK

UK – National surveys used to measure calorie intake are failing to accurately represent how much people are consuming according to a new report from the Behavioural Insight Team.

The problem was identified as a result of some recent reports showing that official statistics were showing a large decline in calorie consumption over the past 40 years despite obesity rate having gone up in the same period.

Counting Calories found that reported calorie consumption is actually too low to sustain people’s current weight, even if only minimal amounts of exercise was taking place. And rather, people are burning more energy than the stats suggested.

Indeed, the report, written by Hugo Harper and Michael Hallsworth, found that this problem is getting worse over time and if the figures are corrected for this increased under-reporting, calorie consumption is in fact rising, not falling.


Source: BIT Counting Calories 

The authors identify a cluster of reasons for this increased under-reporting. As obesity has risen people are more likely to say that they are trying to lose weight – both of which drive misreporting. As people snack and eat outside the home more, consumption becomes harder to track. In addition people are less likely to respond to surveys making the data less robust.

“The Government Statistical Service has responded to our report positively and is going to change the way it measures calorie consumption as a result. We look forward to working with them to ensure that the upcoming childhood obesity strategy is informed by the best possible evidence,” said the authors.

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