Supermarkets have become the single largest source of junk food in the USA

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Junk food is cheap food containing high calories from sugar or fat with little fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Although junk food does not post immediate health concerns, they can be harmful to our health in the long run.

In western diet, it is known that people consume excess calories from sugar-sweetened beverages and other types of junk food. A recent study shows that supermarkets/grocery stores have become the single largest source of junk food in the USA.

The paper is published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign conducted the study.

They analyzed data from the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey focused on civilian resident population of the USA. It estimated diseases and risk factors, relationship among diet, nutrition, and health, and public health issues.

In the study, researchers focused on nationally representative 24-h dietary recall. The discretionary foods were energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods that do not contain essential nutrients but may add enjoyment.

Researchers estimated daily calorie intake from sugar-sweetened beverages and discretionary foods by purchase location.

The location categories included supermarket/grocery store, convenience store, vending machine, fast-food restaurant, full-service restaurant, and other source.

The result showed that during 2011–2012, 46.3% of US adults consumed SSBs and 88.8% of US adults consumed discretionary foods on any given day.

People who had sugar-sweetened beverages on average consumed 213 kcal from these beverages daily.

Among these calories, 52.4% were purchased from supermarkets/grocery stores, 15.5% from fast-food restaurants, 11.2% from convenience stores, 8% from full-service restaurants, 4% from vending machines and 8.9% from other sources.

People who ate discretionary foods on average consumed 439 kcal from these foods daily.

Among these calories, 63.8% were purchased from supermarkets/grocery stores, 10.4% from fast-food restaurants, 6.8% from full-service restaurants, 4.8% from convenience stores, 0.9% from vending machines and 13.2% from other sources.

These findings show that supermarkets/grocery stores are by far the single largest source of junk food in the USA.

Researchers suggest that supermarkets are also the largest source of healthy food in the USA. It is important that people replace junk food with healthy food such as fruits and vegetables. In that case, they can protect them from obesity and related diseases.


Citation: An R, Maurer G. (2016). Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and discretionary foods among US adults by purchase location. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published online. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2016.136.
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