As for statisticians, USA is a gold mine of data, systematically compiled and computerized for ready access on any and every topic on earth. To illustrate this point one should look at the latest statistics on food consumption released recently which speaks volumes about the discipline and systematic endeavor gone in compiling such data over long periods.
Food is essential for survival but often the issue of how much and what type of food one must consume is mired in controversy. There are guidelines national as well as international which vary widely depending on the sex, life style, physical parameters and environment. Quality and quantity of food consumed by each person also show enormous variations because of lack of nutrition awareness, reliable information, taste preferences, accessibility, convenience, availability,and affordability. The purchasing power is one of the most critical factors that influences the food consumption. While in India, a typical middle class family spends almost 50% of its income on food, both cooked at home as well as eaten out, expenses on food is not a very significant component of family budget in USA. Food cost as a percentage of per capita income is also negligible in the country and this, probably, could be one of the reasons why rampant over eating has become a national habit causing wide spread eating related disorders.
One cannot help wondering what use the statistics serve in the day to day life of the people. Looking at the figures coming out of the survey by US Department of Agriculture, any one is struck by the changing pattern of food consumption between 1970 and 2006 and a clear connection emerges between food and diseases.In 1970 itself an average American was eating 2.11 kg of dairy products(1.53 kg of fluid milk), 2.20 kg of fruits and vegetables, 1.27 kg of meat, 0.82 kg of grains, 0.73 kg of sugars and sweeteners and 0.36 kg of fats per week. This works out to about 7.45 kg of food per week or more than 1 kg of food per day. By 2006 even though the milk consumption went drown by 20%, cheese consumption jumped by 180% which probably has a role in increasing body weight noticed lately. Increase in consumption in 2006 of meat and eggs by 11%, grains by 42%, sugars by 17% and most significantly fats by 59% is note worthy from the point of view of nutrition and health.In all probability Americans may end up spending more on medicines to alleviate food related diseases than on food itself in the coming years if moderation is not practiced in the food front.
It is affluence brought about by all round development with unparalleled prosperity that has driven the Americans to eat almost 0.82 kg more food per week, that too foods made up of carbohydrate rich grains, sugars mostly High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and fats, a sure recipe for disaster. As these are average figures, there must be wide scale disparity between low and high income groups, the latter category taking much higher amount of foods than the median values. Added to this is the prolific eating out habits ingrained in the society where on an average a family eats out 20% of its meals in restaurants.
The foods served in eateries invariably are calorie-rich besides containing significant concentration of trans fats and saturated fats. It has recently been reported that generally American eating joints serve 'kid meals' for children with caloric densities between 430 and 1200 kC per meal as against a recommended daily allowance of 1000 kC. No wonder the obese population which was just 15% of the population in 1980 more than doubled by 2007.
While the remarkable achievements of capitalistic countries in almost all areas of human endeavor deserve admiration and applause, the food habits and health accomplishments in these countries are not worth consideration by any one with high expectations of good quality living and longevity.