ATLANTA — Americans, especially women, are getting fatter because they eat much more of everything than they did 30 years ago, the government said Thursday.
In 2000, women ate the equivalent of one more large chocolate chip cookie every day -- 335 more calories -- compared with what they ate in 1971.
Men ate 168 more calories -- slightly more than a 12-ounce Pepsi -- each day, according to the study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The majority of the increase in calories is from an increase in carbohydrate intake," said Jacqueline Wright, a CDC epidemiologist and study author.
And she doesn't mean nutritious carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables. It's the cookies, bagels, chips, pasta and soda that are to blame, Wright said.
The extra calories are leading to extra pounds and chronic health problems. Obesity rates jumped from 14.5% of U.S. adults in 1971 to 30.9% in 2000, Wright said.
The average caloric intake for men grew from 2,450 in 1971 to 2,618 in 2000. For women, intake grew from 1,542 calories to 1,877 calories during the same period.
The government recommends about 1,600 calories daily for women and 2,200 for men, and more for active people.
CDC officials did not say whether the study would affect the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid, which recommends eating a diet heavy in breads and grains, which are high in carbohydrates. Wright said a federal panel examining general dietary guidelines would review the results of the study.
The idea that carbohydrates lead to a bigger waistline was long espoused by the late Dr. Robert Atkins, whose low-carb diet has been followed by millions of people.
On the Atkins diet, up to two-thirds of calories can come from fat -- more than double the usual recommendation.
CDC officials said people should watch their overall eating and exercise habits, not just carbohydrates. Previous federal studies have blamed eating out and larger food portions.
"Certainly if our calorie intake is increasing and our physical activities really aren't changing too much, then we're going to be seeing weight gain," Wright said.
The CDC remains concerned that Americans still eat too much saturated fat, a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.