by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Calories

Jul 31 2019

Junk food encourages overeating: the evidence piles up

I was fascinated to see this article about how offering kids greater amounts and varieties of snack foods encourages them to eat more and, therefore, take in more calories.  Snack variety has a greater effect than just larger package sizes (1).

This article immediately reminded me of the infamous cafeteria diet studies of the late 1980s.  The investigators fed rats all kinds of junk foods and compared the calories they ate to those eaten by control rats allowed only rat chow.  The cafeteria-fed rats ate more (2).

This, of course, is what Kevin Hall and his colleagues found when adults were allowed to eat as much as they wanted of ultraprocessed junk foods (3).

The message is clear: junk food encourages overeating; overeating means taking in more calories; more calories means more weight.  Eating a lot of junk food is a sufficient explanation for obesity.

References

  1.  Kerr JA, et al. Child and adult snack food intake in response to manipulated pre-packaged snack item quantity/variety and snack box size: a population-based randomized trial. International Journal of Obesity (2019).
  2. Prats E, et al.  Energy intake of rats fed a cafeteria diet.  Physiol Behav. 1989 Feb;45(2):263-72.
  3. Hall K, et al.  Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake .  Cell Metabolism 2019; 30:67–77.
May 21 2019

Obesity explained: Ultra-processed foods –> Calories –> Weight Gain

Kevin Hall at NIH has done a controlled diet study demonstrating that people who consume ultra-processed foods eat more calories—500 more a day (!)—and, therefore, gain weight.

Carlos Monteiro at the University of São Paulo and his colleagues explain how to identify ultra-processed foods.  

They also demonstrate that ultra-processed foods comprise nearly 60 percent of calorie intake.

No surprise.  Calories matter, as Mal Nesheim and I explained in our book Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics (and thanks Kevin for confirming what we wrote in that book).

The clear conclusions of this study have elicited a lot of attention.  Here’s my favorite from Francis Collins, the head of NIH and Kevin Hall’s boss, who also did a blog post:

Examples of media accounts (there were lots more)

Apr 10 2019

Burger King to serve Impossible Burger?

I thought this was an April Fool joke, but apparently it’s for real.  According to The Guardian (and many other sources), Burger King will be serving this plant-based meat alternative.

Much has been said in favor of and opposed to the Impossible Burger.

I give Tamar Haspel credit for the most cogent comment:

Feb 13 2019

Another casualty of trade disputes: Cheese

The Wall Street Journal reports this mind-boggling statistic:  Cheese producers have put 1.4 billion pounds in cold storage in the hope that the market will improve and prices will rise.

Compared to other countries, Americans do not eat much cheese—35 pounds or so per capita per year.

That may be a lot less that the amount consumed in Denmark and other cheese-loving countries, but watch out for the calories: pound of cheese is 1100-1800 calories or more, depending on type.

Jan 17 2019

Annals of food marketing: Gold-leafed potato chips!

When Torsten Veblen wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class in 1899, he could not possibly have imagined this product when he invented the term “conspicuous consumption.”

Koikeya-3

I am indebted to BakeryAndSnacks.com for its noting the new “bling in snacks:”

Japanese snack maker Koikeya…collaborated with gold-leaf maker Hakuichi…to create the Koikeya Pride Potato Kanazawa Gold Leaf Salt chips. The chips are crafted with particular care to the ingredients and frying process, using gold leaf pieces in two different sizes to ensure the chips are thoroughly coated.

The Koikeya Pride Potato Kanazawa Gold Leaf Salt chips are priced at 300 yen for a 68g bag, available at convenience stores across Japan.

The snack maker is also offering an exclusive set that comes with three packages of extra gold leaf that consumers can sprinkle onto the chips.The set, priced at 2,000 yen ($18), includes three 68g (2.4oz) bags of the chips and three 0.12g (0.004oz) packets of extra gold leaf.

Gold-plated junk food?

Fortunately, gold has no calories.

Dec 31 2018

Happy new year and food predictions for 2019!

It’s prediction season and NBC MACH asked for mine in science and tech.  Here it is, along with those of 18 others (I’m in impressive company).

My crystal ball shows a fairy godmother waving her magic wand, giving us adequate levels of food assistance for the poor, delicious and healthy school food for kids, honest food labels that everyone can understand, food so safe that nobody has to worry about it, wages for farm and restaurant workers that they can actually live on, and farmers growing food for people (not so much for animals or cars) in ways that protect and replenish soil and water, reduce greenhouse gases and provide them a decent living. Hey — a girl can dream. And do we ever need dreams — visions for a healthier and more sustainable food system — if we are to continue to thrive as a nation. I cannot get my head around the idea that anyone would object to ensuring that all children get fed the best possible food in schools, that animals should be raised humanely or that crops should be grown sustainably with the least possible harm to the environment. Our food system should protect and promote public health as its first priority. We can hope that 2019 will bring us some steps in thatdirection, but here’s my prediction: not this year. But let’s hold onto those hopes for when times get better.

Outside also asked for predictions.  Here’s what I said:

“Eat Less, Move More” Will Make a Comeback

I’m guessing that calories will be back as explanations for weight gain and dieting.  The arguments about “low-carb” versus “low-fat” go on and on and on, but get nowhere. Attempts to prove one or the other better for weight loss or maintenance remain unconvincing. Advice to eat less and move more still makes good sense. The trick is finding a way to do either—and preferably both—that is so easy to adhere to that it becomes second nature. Individuals have to figure that out on their own, and understanding calorie balance is not a bad way to begin.

If you like this sort of thing, here are some others:

Have a happy and delicious new year!

Sep 26 2018

Calorie labeling works. A little.

A study from The National Bureau of Economic Research finds that calorie labeling on restaurant menus reduced calorie consumption by about 3%, mainly from appetizers and main dishes, but not from drinks or desserts (oh dear).

The Cornell investigators’ description of the study is worth a look.  Here’s what got my attention:

In one restaurant, the number of calories in the appetizers ranged from 200 to 910. The entrees ranged from 580 to 1,840 calories, and the desserts from 420 to 1,150 calories.

Gulp.  No wonder people have trouble maintaining reasonable weight.  Most people require between 2000 (small, inactive) and 3000 (big, very active) calories a day.  One meal in that unnamed place takes care of that and then some, and a 3% reduction won’t make a dent.

Thanks to the Hagstrom Report for finding these studies.

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Aug 15 2018

Eating 14.5 pints of ice cream in 6 minutes is not enough to win an eating contest

It’s summer, it’s hot, and I enjoy ice cream, so I was riveted to learn the sad fate of Joey Chestnut who lost the Indiana State Fair’s World Ice Cream Eating Championship because he only consumed 14.5 pints (!) in six minutes (the winner consumed 15.5 pints in that time).

Chestnut, who took second place Sunday, is an 11-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion. He became well-known locally after dominating the 2014 St. Elmo Shrimps Eating Competition, downing 10.42 pounds of shrimp in eight minutes to set a then-world record. He won it again in 2016 by wolfing down 15 pounds of shrimp. And again in 2017, eating 10 pounds and 6 ounces.

The story in the Indy Star only describes the ice cream as vanilla and gives no information about what kind, so it’s difficult to estimate its calories.  A pint could run from about 400 to 1,000 calories, depending on the fat content, so we are talking here about 6,000 to 15,000 calories—in six minutes.

Meet Major League Eating, an organization that sponsors—and gives schedules for—national eating contests.

Somehow, I missed the ones in Wisconsin and the Nathan’s Hot Dog Contest in Coney Island last Sunday.   Big mistake.   That same Joey Chestnut was the winner, beating his previous records with 74 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.

The mind boggles.

Thanks!