Fast Food Consumption Among Adults in the United States, 2013-2016

October 3, 2018

Questions for Cheryl Fryar, M.S.P.H., Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Fast Food Consumption Among Adults in the United States, 2013-2016

Q: Of all the types of food that Americans eat, what made you decide to focus on fast food for this study?

CF: We focused on fast food for this report because fast food has played an important role in the American diet in recent decades. Fast food has been associated with poor diet and increased risk of obesity. In a previous report, we analyzed and described the percentage of calories consumed from fast food among adults. This current study looks at fast food consumption in a different way. We describe who is eating fast food on a given day. Specifically in this new report, we look at the percentage of adults who consume fast food overall as well as by sex, age group, race and Hispanic origin, family income level and eating occasion.

Q: Your new report measures fast food consumption “on a given day.” What does that mean exactly?

CF: Fast food consumption “on a given day” reflects the way respondents in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported all the foods and beverages they consumed in the previous 24 hours. The survey is designed to be representative of people anywhere in the United States at any time of the year, so “on a given day” refers to any day—so for example, on any day in the United States, approximately 37% of U.S. adults consume some fast food.

“Fast food” is defined as any food a respondent reported getting from a “restaurant fast food/pizza” outlet in the 2013-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey – often known as NHANES.

Q: What type of trend data do you have on eating fast food in the United States; for example, how has the consumption of fast food changed in the United States over the last 10 to 20 years?

CF: While we did not look at trend data for this report, dietary data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA has tables with calories (or energy) consumed from quick service restaurants – which includes fast food along with cafeterias and food trucks. These tables show that in 2015-2016, 15% of calories was from quick service restaurants compared to 16% in 2011-2012.

Q: Was there a finding in this new report on fast food that you hadn’t expected and that really surprised you?

CF:  While there really wasn’t anything in this report that I hadn’t expected to see or that was surprising to me, this report’s analysis does offer some new information. Results from this study were similar to what we found for youth in 2011-2012, where 34% of youth consumed fast food. A new contribution from this new research is reporting fast food consumption among non-Hispanic Asian American adults in comparison to other groups. A notable finding is that non-Hispanic Asian American adults consumed a lower percentage of fast food (30.6%) compared to non-Hispanic white (37.6%) and non-Hispanic black (42.4%) adults.

Q: What differences or similarities did you see between or among various demographic groups in this analysis of fast food consumption?

CF: We found some differences in the percentage of U.S. adults who consume fast food. For example, fast food consumption decreased with age and increased with increasing income. About 45% of young adults consumed fast food compared to just over 24% of older adults. About 32% of adults in the lowest income group consumed fast food compared to 42% of adults in the highest income group. And a lower percentage of non-Hispanic Asian adults (30.6%) consumed fast food compared to non-Hispanic white (37.6%) and non-Hispanic black (42.4%) adults.

Also, among those who consumed fast food, men were more likely than women to eat fast food at lunch, but women were more likely than men to report eating fast food as a snack.

Q: What would you say is the take-home message of this report?

CF: The take-home message of this report is that overall more than one-third of U.S. adults and 45% of young adults consume fast food on a given day. Fast food restaurants can vary, though consumers can find nutritional information, such as calories, on the menu in most fast food establishments and restaurants.

Fact or Fiction: Do One in Three U.S. Adults Eat Seafood at Least Two Times Per Week?

September 28, 2018

SOURCE: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2013–2016.

Seafood Consumption in the United States, 2013–2016

September 28, 2018

Questions for Ana Terry, Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Seafood Consumption in the United States, 2013–2016

Q: What surprised you most about the findings in your report?

AT: Although the findings were not necessarily surprising, we found that seafood consumption was more than twice as high among non-Hispanic Asian adults compared with adults of other race and Hispanic-origin groups.  More than 40% of non-Hispanic Asian adults consumed seafood at least twice per week compared to about 19% of non-Hispanic white, 23% of non-Hispanic black, and 15% of Hispanic  adults.  This is consistent with other studies, which have found that people of Asian descent living in the U.S. consume seafood more frequently, in greater variety, and in greater quantity than non-Asian Americans (Liu et al, Environmental Research, October 2017).

Q: Do we know why there is such a disparity between US Asians and other race/ethnic groups when it comes to consuming the recommended amount of seafood?

AT: We analyzed data from the 2013-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that was collected by a food frequency questionnaire in which persons were asked about the frequency and type of fish and shellfish they consumed in the previous 30 days.  The questionnaire did not ask for the reasons why individuals consumed or did not consume seafood. Other studies have found that diet patterns in Asian countries include fish and shellfish intake levels greater than the average seafood consumption worldwide and that the food choices of people of Asian descent living in the U.S. , are influences by Asian dietary patterns (Liu et al, Environmental Research, October 2017).

Q: Does the fact that seafood consumption has declined mean the population is at less of a risk for mercury exposure?

AT: We did not assess mercury exposure in this report.

Q: What are the health benefits to eating seafood?

AT: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend for the general population consumption of about 8 oz per week of a variety of seafood. Fish and shellfish are excellent sources of high quality protein, are low in saturated fat, are rich in minerals and vitamins, and provide certain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) that the body cannot make and are important for normal growth and development.  Seafood and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to protect against health problems.

Q: What kinds of seafood are most healthy to eat?

AT: Cold water oily fish have the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids but lower in methyl mercury (according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans). Cold water oily fish include:  Salmon, Anchovies, Herring, Shad, Atlantic and Pacific mackerel

FACT OR FICTION: Do most boys and girls drink sugar-sweetened beverages each day?

January 26, 2017

Source: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Perception of Weight Status in U.S. Children and Adolescents Aged 8–15 Years, 2005–2012

July 29, 2014

Childhood obesity is a major public health problem associated with many adverse health outcomes in adulthood. During 2011–2012, nearly 17% of children and adolescents were obese. Weight status misperception occurs when the child’s perception of their weight status differs from their actual weight status based on measured height and weight. Accurate weight status self-perception has been linked to appropriate weight control behaviors in youth.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data for children and adolescents aged 8–15 years offers an opportunity to examine weight perception status in this age group.

Key Findings from the Report:


  • About 30% of children and adolescents aged 8–15 years in the United States misperceive their weight status. Weight status misperception is more common among boys (32.3%) than girls (28.0%).
  • About one-third of Mexican-American (34.0%) and non-Hispanic black (34.4%) children and adolescents misperceive their weight status compared with non-Hispanic white children and adolescents (27.7%).
  • Approximately 81% of overweight boys and 71% of overweight girls believe they are about the right weight.
  • Nearly 48% of obese boys and 36% of obese girls consider themselves to be about the right weight.


A New Year’s resolution – Don’t follow the masses when it comes to exercise

December 30, 2009

What’s your new year’s resolution? For many people this time of year, losing weight and/or getting active tops the list. But when it comes to getting exercise (or, as we at NCHS term it, regular leisure-time physical activity), only about 35% of Americans are making it a priority (although, the percentage of those getting regular exercise in January through June of 2009 did increase from the same period in 2008). Take a look at the most recent statistics –

Percentage of adults aged 18 years and over who engaged in regular leisure-time physical activity: United States, 1997-June 2009 (Data from the National Health Interviewy Survey):

The answer? Don’t give up. And this year, if losing weight and getting active is your goal, maybe it’s time to give your resolution more than lip service.

For more details, visit

Obesity information-it starts with the letters NHANES

August 5, 2009

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released information concerning the prevalence and costs of the growing epidemic of obesity in the United States. Some of the most critical information concerning the weight of the nation is collected in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which takes actual measurements of a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population.

For the most recent information on obesity and overweight, please visit the Health E-Stat report at

For a more general overview, visit

As always, the NCHS press office can be reached at 301-458-4800.

Federal report on America’s children released

July 10, 2009

Federal interagency report shows declines in preterm birth and low birthweight. Children more likely to live in poverty, less likely to have parent employed full time.

These and other statistics have been compiled in America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2009. It is compiled by a number of federal agencies and provides a comprehensive picture of the following key areas of child well-being: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health.

To access the report, please visit

A brief look at anemia

January 22, 2009

Anemia/Iron Deficiency:


Percentage of children ages 1-2 years with iron deficiency: 7

Percentage of females ages 12-49 with iron deficiency: 12

Source: Iron Deficiency–United States, 1999-2000 



Nursing home care

Number of residents with anemia: 174,600

Percentage of residents with anemia: 1.1

Source: National Nursing Home Survey, 1999 



Number of deaths: 4,624

Deaths per 100,000 population: 1.6

Source: Deaths: Final Data for 2005 

New Health E-Stat integrates obesity and overweight prevalence data

January 14, 2009

Results from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 32.7 percent of U.S. adults 20 years and older are overweight, 34.3 percent are obese and 5.9 percent are extremely obese. Additional data as well as figures and tables can be found by visiting the following Web addres: