As obesity and being overweight continue to increase in the United States, public concern is growing about the quality of American diets. We compare the changes in nutrients contributed by major food groups in the periods 1953-1980 and 1981-2008 and find that there is reduced cholesterol intake and increased calcium intake, but the levels of food energy and total fats increase substantially. To understand how economic factors affect the overall nutritional quality of American diets, we estimate a complete food demand system and conduct a nutrient demand analysis. Among our findings, we conclude that some price manipulations such as subsidizing fruits and vegetables could be effective to increase produce consumption, but the effects of taxing fats to reduce the consumption of fats could be limited. Increasing income would improve intakes of nutrients such as calcium and various vitamins (likely now insufficient), but intakes of nutrients such as energy, saturated fats, and cholesterol (likely now excessive) would also rise with increased income.
food demand system nutrient availabilities nutrient demand elasticities