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December 1998, Vol. 121, No. 12
The changing food-at-home budget: 1980 and 1992 compared
Geoffrey D. Paulin
In the 1960s, it was wheat germ and yoga. In the 1970s, it was granola and jogging. In the 1980s, it was oat bran and aerobics. Every decade appears to have had its own prescription for good health, and the 1990s are no exception. The news continually reports findings from medical studies that link foods with health conditions, either good or bad. For instance, studies have linked the consumption of cruciferous vegetables to a reduced risk of certain types of cancer, polyunsaturated fats to lower levels of total blood cholesterol, and monounsaturated fats to lower "bad" cholesterol and maintenance levels of "good" cholesterol.1 Americans are advised to lower their consumption of red meats and to increase the amount of fiber and complex carbohydrates they consume by eating more breads, rice, pasta, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
But are consumers following this advice? Evidence from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that some changes in dietary patterns have occurred recently.2 For instance, per capita consumption of red meat fell 10 percent between 1980 and 1992, while per capita consumption of poultry rose 48 percent over the same period.3 Per capita consumption also increased for fish (19 percent), flour and cereal products (29 percent), dairy products (4 percent),4 fresh fruits (14 percent), and fresh vegetables (18 percent).5 The 15-percent increase in per capita consumption of fats and oils from 1980 (57.2 pounds) to 1992 (65.6 pounds) was due to a 23-percent increase in consumption of vegetable fats (44.8 pounds to 55.2 pounds), combined with a 15-percent decrease in consumption of animal fats (12.3 to 10.4 pounds per capita).
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1 Try These New Secrets: Live Longer and Love Every Day," Prevention, August 1993, p. 73.
2 Judith Jones Putnam and Jane E. Allshouse, Food Consumption, Prices, and Expenditures, 197092, Statistical Bulletin No. 867 (U.S. Department of Agriculture, September 1993).
3 These and the figures that follow are taken from Putnam and Allshouse, Food Consumption, table 1, "Major foods: Per capita consumption, 197092," p. 27.
4 Unlike the per capita consumption of other foods described here, which was more or less steadily up or steadily down from 1980 through 1992, per capita dairy product consumption reached a low in 1981 (543.2 pounds), rose from 1982 (554.6 pounds) through 1987 (601.2 pounds), and then dropped sharply in 1988 (565.2 pounds), at which level it approximately remained until 1992 (564.6 pounds). Even so, per capita consumption in 1992 was 4 percent higher than in 1981.
5 The consumption of both fresh fruits and fresh vegetables dropped from 1989 to 1991, probably due to sharp increases in prices after the 1988 drought. Per capita fresh fruit consumption increased strongly from 1991 (86.6 pounds) to 1992 (95.3 pounds), but that of fresh vegetables declined slightly over the same period, falling from 110.4 pounds to 109.3 pounds.
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