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Not Enough Fruit in the U.S. Food Supply to Keep Population Healthy

September 25, 2010


Not enough fruits and vegetables are produced or imported to supply every resident of the United States with a healthy diet, researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have concluded.

“If everyone wanted to eat healthily, there would not be enough,” said the institute’s Susan Krebs-Smith.

In coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the NCI researchers analyzed how much food of various kinds is produced, imported and distributed in the United States. They also calculated national rates of exercise.

The researchers found that there are not enough fresh fruits and vegetables in the U.S. food supply to supply the recommended five servings per person per day. In part, this food shortage may be produced by lack of demand due to unhealthy eating habits.

“Our intakes of fruit are low,” Krebs-Smith said. “Our intake of vegetables is low but especially our intake of dark green and orange vegetables and legumes.”

Supplies of less-healthy but more popular foods, on the other hand, are abundant.

“The fruit in the food supply is about half what it needs to be, but we have plenty of calories from fat and added sugars,” Krebs-Smith said.

“The food supply does supply enough meat and beans.”

To make matters worse, studies suggest that the typical U.S. eater drastically underestimates the amount of junk food they eat. And while a maximum of about 11 percent of a person’s daily calories should come from sugary or fatty snacks, the typical U.S. consumer actually relies on such foods for 38 percent of their daily energy intake.

At the same time, the National Cancer Institute found that less than 5 percent of the U.S. population gets the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. Yet 30 to 40 percent of those polled consistently estimate that they get enough exercise.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that obesity and physical inactivity together are responsible for 25 to 30 percent of breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal and kidney cancers.

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