Britons are underestimating their calorie intake by 50 per cent – fuelling obesity levels, it emerged last night.
Men typically have 1,000 more calories every day than they account for, while women consumed about 800 more than they estimate, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
The research also found that the more food Britons consume, the less reliable their estimates are.
Women claimed that they consumed an average of 1,570 calories a day – nearly 500 calories less than the recommended intake of 2,000 – but the real figure was in fact 2,393
Experts have suggested that people do not like to ‘be taken for slobs’ and so end up lying to themselves about how much they actually eat.
According to the data, men consumed 3,119 calories a day despite claiming that they had only 2,065. The recommended intake for men is 2,500 a day.
Women claimed that they consumed an average of 1,570 calories a day – nearly 500 calories less than the recommended intake of 2,000 – but the real figure was in fact 2,393.
The data comes as Public Health England (PHE) prepares to launch a new calorie-counting campaign, in order to try to tackle the obesity crisis.
A third of children are obese or overweight by the time they leave primary school. The figures suggest that the average person underestimates the number of calories they consume every day, fuelling the epidemic.
The data comes as Public Health England (PHE) prepares to launch a new calorie-counting campaign, in order to try to tackle the obesity crisis
For the survey, 4,500 adults were asked to keep track of their calorie consumption over four days. The scientists then looked at how much energy the body used in order to calculate the real number of calories consumed.
The survey found that 34 per cent of the participants claimed to be consuming less than physically required to stay alive.
And the more overweight the people were, the less reliable the account was, according to the research.
Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘People lie and I am not surprised that they do when it comes to food. They wish not to be taken for slobs, even though they may be just that.’
He said that the new national calorie counting campaign, which is set to begin next month, was an ‘absolutely ridiculous’ attempt to solve the problem because it was unrealistic.
The PHE advice in the One You nutrition campaign will tell adults to limit breakfast to 400 calories and dinners and lunches to just 600 calories.
The average recommended calorie consumption levels remain at 2,500 calories for men and 2,000 for women, according to those behind the campaign. But the guidance is a ‘rule of thumb’ to try to help Britons cut down the number of calories they consume.
The average adult is eating 200 to 250 more calories every day than they should, health officials say. However, the new data suggests that this could be largely underestimated.
International research shows that Britain is the fattest country in Western Europe.
The rise in obesity levels has been linked to larger portion sizes, changes in diet, junk food, takeaway meals and snacks.