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Charts, Charts, Charts…

by Fred Hahn on September 18, 2011

I was tooling around online and found something interesting.

Take a look at this chart:

As you can see, since the 1970’s, we’ve been chowing down more on carbs and less on fat. And the types of carbs we’ve been imbibing more of are not (and I think we all agree), more carrots and kale.

Take a look at this one:

This is the NHANES data for macronutrient intake from 1970 to 2000. NHANES stands for National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. This chart supports the chart above on macronutrient intake till 2000. More carbs, less fat.

As you can see from this next chart, we’ve been getting fatter since 1980 – after roughly a decade of increased carb consumption and decreased fat consumption.

US Weight trends over the past four decades

US Weight trends over the past four decades

So it’s pretty clear from these charts that eating fat doesn’t make you fat. So those of you who still hold that eating fat makes you fat, ditch that idea now and forever. It just ain’t so.

Here’s another NHANES chart showing the same. Round about 1980, BAM!



Now, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that carbs are to blame for this. Bad carbs, bad! Tsk, tsk.

But take a look at this chart:

Food, food, food, everything is food...

"Food, food, food, everything is food..."

So it appears we have been slowly and gradually eating more calories as well (of course those calories are all from carbs), about 250 calories per day max from 1980 to 1990 where it levels off. Calories – you know, those little gadgets that our bodies have no receptors for. Think about that for a sec or two or three, or…

We hear the same R.D./fitness guru mantra in our sleep explaining fat regulation: “Calories in = calories out…yaddya, yaddya, yaddya…” “The law of thermodynamics, yaddya, yaddya, yaddya…”

Hey meng – jour body doesn’t know from no stinkin’ calories, meng.

We are living entities. Our bodies do different things with different macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates), in different ratios, at different times and in different states (cooked, not cooked, etc.). It ain’t just in/out, open/shut, up/down, fat/thin. Badda bing, badda boom.

Take a hypothetical pair of identical twins – one eats 2000 calories a day (assume this is the amount of calories is what they both need to maintain their body weight. This is a totally bogus concept mind you, but I’m too dim to explain it any other way) of fatty meat. The other twin eats 2000 calories a day of rice. Do you think that at the end of a decade of eating like this their bodies would look exactly the same (aside from the fact that the rice-twin would be dead)?


Now, look at the total caloric intake chart again and eye-spy the total calorie intake between 1970 and 1980. By gum, it goes down! But if you look at the chart above the energy intake chart, you’ll see obesity rose during this time. Do tell! The law of thermody-what? As a nation, we were eating LESS total calories but were still getting fatter. Wassup wit dat?

After 1980, we started eating more food – for whatever reason (I have my hunches as to why) and as the chart shows, we continued to get fatter still. How can this be? Since it clearly has nothing to do with the total amount of calories, might it be the type of calories we are eating? Perhaps? Maybe? Possibly? Hypothetically? And what then did the increase in carbs and the decrease in fat do to some of our metabolisms and hormonal profiles?

OK, it’s time for another chart. Here ya go:

The carb-tide is turning...

The carb-tide is turning...

Kinda looks like Americans went to the library and pulled out a copy of The Protein Power Lifeplan! (BTW, this is an affiliate link.) Less carbs, more fat and adequate protein. Calories? Who cares, as we learned above.

I think that the title of the book – Protein Power – is a tad misleading. It really should be called Fat Power because this is the macronutrient you want to swap the carbs for, not more protein necessarily.

I’m not criticizing my co-authors mind you. I’m just pointing out that many people think low carb diets are high protein diets and that is not so. Americans have always eaten adequate protein more or less.

It’s nice to see that people are slowly realizing that fat is not so bad after all and that it’s the carbs that have to be curtailed – specifically the refined carbs. Obviously no one is denigrating spinach and cabbage.

The change in American’s macronutrient intake is due, in large part, to all the low carb/sugar, high fat bloggers out there who continuously shove science down the gen pops gullets. These would be folks like:

Gary Taubes
Jimmy Moore
Mike Eades, M.D.
Dana Carpender
Tom Naughton
Andreas Eenfeldt, M.D.
William Davis, M.D.
Laura Dolson
Richard Feinman, Ph.D

And a host of others.

But what’s really interesting here is this. Carb consumption is going down and fat consumption is going up and, at the same time obesity rates have somewhat plateaued starting around 2004-5. (I think sugar consumption also plateaued a few years earlier). Take a look-see:

You can see that in both the obese and the overweight, things have slowed down here and there. Obviously not ALL people have dropped their carb intake and increased their fat intake. All these charts reflect a national average.

I put to you that, if you put 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 together, you’ll see what I’m seeing. That as calorie intake plateaued and carbs consumption fell, weight gain halted too. Again, the increase in calories over 10 years by a max of 225 calories cannot account for the obesity epidemic because from 1970 – 1980 calorie consumption fell and weight gain continued.

Given this fact, I think it’s pretty clear that the increase in carb consumption along with the decrease in fat consumption, which drives up blood sugar and thus drives insulin which then drives insulin resistance which then drives excessive fat storage which then drives hunger which then drives more fat storage is to blame.

You are what your body does with what you eat.

Have you ever met a person who was obese and has never eaten refined carbs and has always kept total carb intake low? No you haven’t and you never will. The only way you can become obese from food intake is by eating most of your calories from carbohydrates, specifically, refined carbs and starches.

This is not to say that there aren’t some people who can and do eat most of their calories from carbs who aren’t fat (usually, if not always, the carbs these people eat are predominantly veggies and fruit). But that is beside the point. You can smoke and not get emphysema or lung cancer. But smoking directly causes these two maladies.

There’s a reason why it’s not called a “meat belly!”

I’ll be blogging on the bogus concept of food reward soon – a hypothesis that is just the calories in, calories out concept in disguise.

I've been involved in exercise ever since I became a member of The Charles Atlas Club when I was 10 years old. In 1998, I founded and established Serious Strength on the Upper West Side of NYC. My clients include kids, seniors (and everyone in between), top CEOs, celebrities, bestselling authors, journalists and TV personalities.
my book. my Gym.

in Losing weight/diet,Nutrition,obesity · 11 comments


Nina September 18, 2011 at 5:53 PM

Fred are there some simple exercises for a middle aged, depressed, morbidly obese person with knee problems? I’m trying to help this person make some progress and lose weight by changing diet. I think some basic slow burn might help with insulin function and to feel better. What do you think?


Fred Hahn September 18, 2011 at 6:09 PM

Absolutely Nina! Start her on the home program unless she has a gym membership.

hggh22 September 19, 2011 at 4:26 PM

‘I’ll be blogging on the bogus concept of food reward soon – a hypothesis that is just the calories in, calories out concept in disguise.’

I am most open to catabolic and anabolic hormones/enzymes, but I have to read more about this food reward /leptin as dominant factor in obesity (will have to check out the david kresser book): eating out of straw ‘The first volunteer continued eating bland food from the machine for a total of 70 days, losing approximately 70 pounds. After that, he was sent home with the formula and instructed to drink 400 calories of it per day, which he did for an additional 185 days, after which his total weight loss was 200 lbs. The investigators remarked that “during all this time weight was steadily lost and the patient never complained of hunger or gastrointestinal discomfort.” This is truly a starvation-level calorie intake, and to eat it continually for 255 days without hunger suggests that something rather interesting was happening in this man’s body.’

And I hope GTvsSG two debate ‘most seed oils are metabolically-suppressive and just so happens to be a staple of the Pima in the form of “fry bread” – deep-fried white flour. This has proven to be a much bigger factor in insulin resistance than the consumption of carbohydrates’

Steve September 20, 2011 at 8:19 AM

Could it be the sedentary lifestyles? We are aging as a population… slowing down…

Fred Hahn September 20, 2011 at 8:23 AM


We all know very sedentary people who are lean and active people who are over fat. So no, it can’t be sedentary behavior or ALL sedentary people would be fat.

palo September 20, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Based on these charts of THE ENTIRE US POPULATION, you would have to be foolish or intellectually dishonest to try to discard this overwhelming evidence based on “studies” that are not random (always made up of volunteers), of short duration and poorly designed, perhaps on purpose to obtain certain results.

palo September 20, 2011 at 3:40 PM

Based on these charts of THE ENTIRE US POPULATION, you would have to be foolish or intellectually dishonest to try to discard this overwhelming evidence that increased carbs are the cause of the obesity epidemic. Contrary opinions based on “studies” that are not random (always made up of volunteers), of short duration and poorly designed, perhaps on purpose to obtain certain results, are worthless.

Ramona Graham September 22, 2011 at 1:08 PM

Cool blog, Fred, thanks!

Fred Hahn September 22, 2011 at 1:10 PM

Anything for you Ramona! 🙂

Stephan Guyenet September 12, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Hi Fred,

Please cite my blog if you’re going to use my graphs. Several of the graphs you used in this post are from my site.

fred hahn September 12, 2012 at 1:39 PM

Hi Stephen –

I found these on Google with no names attached – which are yours and I’ll gladly add your site to them.

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