Secular differences in the association between caloric intake, macronutrient intake, and physical activity with obesity

Obes Res Clin Pract. May-Jun 2016;10(3):243-55. doi: 10.1016/j.orcp.2015.08.007. Epub 2015 Sep 14.


Background: To determine whether the relationship between caloric intake, macronutrient intake, and physical activity with obesity has changed over time.

Methods: Dietary data from 36,377 U.S. adults from the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) between 1971 and 2008 was used. Physical activity frequency data was only available in 14,419 adults between 1988 and 2006. Generalised linear models were used to examine if the association between total caloric intake, percent dietary macronutrient intake and physical activity with body mass index (BMI) was different over time.

Results: Between 1971 and 2008, BMI, total caloric intake and carbohydrate intake increased 10-14%, and fat and protein intake decreased 5-9%. Between 1988 and 2006, frequency of leisure time physical activity increased 47-120%. However, for a given amount of caloric intake, macronutrient intake or leisure time physical activity, the predicted BMI was up to 2.3kg/m(2) higher in 2006 that in 1988 in the mutually adjusted model (P<0.05).

Conclusions: Factors other than diet and physical activity may be contributing to the increase in BMI over time. Further research is necessary to identify these factors and to determine the mechanisms through which they affect body weight.

Keywords: Body mass index; Energy intake; Epidemiology; Etiology; NHANES.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Diet / trends*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Sedentary Behavior*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Proteins