Dietary Values: Why Is It 2,000 Calories a Day?

published Aug 5, 2011
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Have you ever wondered why 2,000 calories is the magic number when it comes to dietary recommendations? Who came up with that number and who does it really apply to? At The Atlantic, food and nutrition expert Marion Nestle provides some history on how 2,000 calories became such an important figure in food.

When it was coming up with a standard for daily calorie consumption, the FDA looked at food consumption surveys of men, women and children, and proposed 2,350 calories as the standard, with 2,000, 2,300, and 2,400 calories a day as possible alternatives. They asked for feedback from the public on these numbers and were told “2,350 calories is too high!”

Nutritionists worried this number would lead to overconsumption, and instead advocated 2,000 calories a day for the following reasons:

• consistent with widely used food plans
• close to the calorie requirements for postmenopausal women, the population group most prone to weight gain
• a reasonably rounded-down value from 2,350 calories
• easier to use than 2,350 and, therefore, a better tool for nutrition education

It’s especially interesting that these guidelines were designed with postmenopausal women in mind. Overall, this piece is a good reminder that the best way to figure out personal caloric needs in by paying attention to our own intake, rather than relying on labels.

What do you think about the recommendation of 2,000 calories a day?

(Image: Flickr member joelogon licensed under Creative Commons)