The apparent fall in calorie intake among the UK population is the result of under-reporting rather than a genuine drop in consumption, according to a striking new report.
The Behavioural Insights Team, which started life as a unit within the Cabinet Office, said that it was not plausible that large falls in calorie consumption could correspond with the rise in obesity seen in the UK and attributed this apparent contradiction to an increase in under-reporting of calorie intake in official statistics.
Government surveys, including the National Diet and Nutrition Survey and the Living Costs and Food Survey, have suggested that food consumption has actually gone down in recent decades, even though obesity rates have continued to rise.
The Behavioural Insights Team, however, said that alternative data for measuring energy expenditure indicated that as a population we are consuming 30% to 50% more calories than the levels reported in official statistics, the equivalent of 3000 kcal rather than 2000 kcal.
Possible reasons for under-reporting calorie intake include a desire to lose weight and an increase in snacking and eating outside of the home.
The report concluded that policies to reduce calorie consumption have an important part to play in the Government’s obesity strategy and that attempts to increase physical activity should not detract from this core aim.