In this crazy world, sometimes up is down, down is sideways — and numbers we thought were grounded in science turn out to be more or less made up. That’s the problem with the 2,000-calorie diet. Turns out, 2,000 was never a magic number when it comes to daily calories. It was never even the most accurate number. It was just the number that made it through committee.
The 2,000-calorie diet was invented to simplify nutrition labels. The history goes like this: In the 1990s, when the FDA was standardizing nutrition labels for U.S. food, they wanted to include a benchmark number for daily calories. Unfortunately, no such number existed. So they turned to data from public surveys, in which people had self-reported how many calories they ate per day. (Were these accurate reports? Fingers crossed.) They got a wide range of answers, from 1,600 to 3,000 calories. But nutrition labels can only fit so much information! Ultimately, the committee decided to keep it simple, if not exactly accurate. They wanted just one number. Technically, the survey average was about 2,400 daily calories — but 2,000 won the day. It was easier to remember, and proponents argued that it was better for people to eat too little than too much.
“It was essentially a compromise number that is nice and rounded,” says Dr. St. Pierre. “Which puts into perspective how badly we have managed calories and serving sizes as a society.”
Excerpted from Hartford Healthcare