People underestimate how much they eat by up to 50%

August 27, 2016  23:45

Many a dieter 'forgets' about a chocolate bar they've eaten in the hope the calories didn't count.

Now, a study reveals the practice of living in denial may be more widespread than ever.

People are under-reporting how many calories they consume by up to 50 per cent, a new study suggests.

Many national surveys conclude that the average adult consumes around 2,000 calories but new research suggests it could be almost 3,000 calories.

The authors, from the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) wanted to examine why official statistics show calorie intake has declined over recent decades, despite rising levels of obesity.

The BIT is now an independent company but began life as a government agency known as the 'nudge unit' as it was formed to encourage people to make healthy life choices.

Its report concluded the fall in calories can be explained by people under-reporting what they eat.

This could be driven by a range of factors including people not revealing the true extent of their calorie consumption.

People may also increasingly eat snacks and meals outside the home - which makes calorie intake harder to track, they suggested.

Its new report, Counting Calories, concludes that if the nation was consuming the number of calories that it reports, people on the whole would be losing weight instead of gaining it.

Meanwhile, it added that declining levels of physical activity are not a 'realistic explanation' for the increase in obesity.

Strategies to reduce obesity should focus on reducing calorie consumption, the authors said.

Michael Hallsworth, co-author of the paper and director of health at the Behavioural Insights Team, said: 'Counting Calories suggests that strategies to reduce obesity should focus on reducing calorie consumption.

'Our analysis shows that it's unlikely that calorie intake has dramatically decreased in recent decades. Instead, it seems we are reporting our consumption less accurately.

'We should look at new ways of helping people report what they eat.'

In 2014, 58 per cent of women and 65 per cent of men in England were overweight or obese, figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show.

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