Under-reported calorie intake is ‘misleading obesity policy’

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Obesity policy is being misled thanks to calorie intake being under-reported claimed BIT
Obesity policy is being misled thanks to calorie intake being under-reported claimed BIT

Related tags: Obesity

The British public is under-reporting the amount of calories consumed, which could frustrate policy makers’ bid to combat obesity, according to new research.

Consumers ate 3,000 calories a day, but only admit to eating 2,000 in official surveys, revealed new research by joint-owned government body the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT)

As levels of obesity in the UK reached an all-time high, BIT said the report – Counting Calories: How under-reporting can explain the apparent fall in calorie intake – ​explained why they were rising, despite surveys claiming people were eating less.

It suggested a number of reasons why calorie intake was not accurately recorded.

These included: snacks being difficult to track, fewer people taking part in surveys and consumers desire to lose wait making them less likely to be honest about their eating habits.

Lack of exercise

The report dismissed suggestions from the food and drink industry that the public was becoming more obese due to lack of exercise.

The report hit back at this theory and said: “Reductions in physical activity do not provide a realistic explanation for the change in weight.

“Some analyses have claimed that a significant decline in physical activity has led to a collapse in energy expenditure, and thus we have gained weight even though we are eating less.

See below for an infographic showing how much exercise is needed to burn off the calorie intake from everyday foods.

While acknowledging that people had less “strenuous” ​lifestyles and indulged in more “sedentary” ​activities,​ like watching television, these factors were not considered a “plausible argument” ​for the rising trend in obesity.

Not considered a ‘plausible argument’

“A very large decline in physical activity would have been required to offset the suggested decline in calories,” ​said BIT.

Co-author of the paper and director of health at BIT Michael Hallsworth called for a greater focus in reducing calorie consumption to reduce obesity.

“Our analysis shows it is unlikely that calories intake has dramatically decreased in recent decades,”​ said Hallsworth. “Instead, it seems we are reporting our consumption less accurately.”


Possible reasons for calorie confusion

  • Snacks being difficult to track
  • Fewer people taking part in surveys
  • Desire to lose wait making people less likely to be honest about eating habits.

Calorie infographic
How much exercise it takes to burn off calories

Related topics: Legal, Confectionery, Obesity

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