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WEDNESDAY, Jan. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A recent leveling of obesity rates in the United States isn't due to the bad economy, but the result of better eating habits that Americans began to adopt about 10 years ago, a new report says.
Some experts have suggested that people are less likely to become obese today because tough economic times are forcing them to eat less. Instead, it appears that long-term efforts to educate Americans about healthy eating habits and food choices are paying off, according to the new study.
"We found U.S. consumers changed their eating and food-purchasing habits significantly beginning in 2003, when the economy was robust, and continued these habits to the present," study first author Shu Wen Ng, assistant professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a university news release.
The researchers analyzed data gathered from more than 13,400 children and nearly 10,800 adults between 2003 and 2011, as well as data from more than 57,000 households with children and nearly 109,000 households without children.
The investigators found that calorie intake decreased more among children than among adults, according to the study, which was published online this month in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"These changes in food habits persist independent of economic conditions linked with the Great Recession or food prices," Ng said in the news release.
Further investigation revealed that recent economic problems did not have much impact on calorie intake, the researchers said.
Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, said this research is significant.
"We found the largest declines were among households with children," Popkin said. "However, these declines did not occur uniformly. There were no significant declines in caloric intake observed among adolescents (12 to 18 years), black children and those whose parents did not complete high school."
Popkin said this finding suggests that certain groups of people are still either "unable or unwilling to make these dietary changes."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about healthy weight.