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Where do we get most of our calories?

Researchers for Nutritional Journal recently conducted a study examining caloric intake by food purchase location—store, quickservice restaurant, full-service restaurant, school, etc.—and food source. The first-of-its-kind study brought forward data that suggests that restaurants, schools and stores each have a role to play in curbing the current obesity epidemic, allowing for more effective targeting of policy interventions aimed at calorie reduction. However, the study also found that contrary to popular belief, restaurant-sourced pizza, burgers, chicken and French fries accounted for less calories than store-bought breads, grain-based desserts, pasta and soft drinks. A snapshot of findings:

  • Restaurants (QSR, FSR) contributed 16.9 to 26.3% of calories, depending on age group while stores (grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, specialty food stores) supplied 63-76% of energy depending on age group
  • Adults aged 20-50 years of age obtained the highest proportion of calories from restaurants (26.3%), followed by adolescents (12-19 years), who get 24.5%
  • Calories from restaurants declined after age 50, however calories from QSRs tend to be replaced by those from FSRs
  • QSR pizza accounted for 3.9% of total energy among adolescents (12-19 years) whereas QSR French fries accounted for 1.7%
  • QSR sugar-sweetened beverages provided 1.0 to 1.4% of dietary energy depending on age, while store-sourced beverages provided four times that amount

Further investigation is being conducted to better understand the relationship between food source, purchase location and added sugar, sodium and saturated fat—all of which may be influencing obesity levels.

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