Recently in Food Category


I've finally learned how to translate Consumerist posts. Which Restaurants Are Making Your Kids Fat? should read You Are Making Your Kids Fat.

Yes, nutrition policy advocacy does address some very complicated issues. But how many times do we need to be told that empty carbs coated in trans-fats are at all healthy? I'm thinking ten, maybe twenty, tops.

So lets move on. As a public service, I should like to remind you:

CSPI is pursuing its own interest...

CSPI is pursuing its own interest...

CSPI is pursuing its own interest...

This repetition should be tautological, but needless it isn't.

For CSPI, our public health problems stem from public ignorance of what one should eat and indifference to what is in the standard American diet, combined with corporate shenanigans destroying the food chain. The poor health of the masses is the result of too little government power, control and funding. It's a tremendous government failure that can only be resolved by wise intervention.

Hence, CSPI advocates several policy changes: food control in schools, advertising restriction, mandatory nutrition labeling in eateries, and, of course, lots of money for health education and policy research.

That last one should generate a little skepticism about the objectivity of this organization, and the policies its members advocate.

But does it?

Calorie Counts: Again and Again and Again

I read The Consumerist because it often gets on my nerves. Like today, when it squawks about consumer ignorance of Calories in fast food:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest and the American Heart Association recently conducted a scientific poll... in which they asked a sampling of consumers to tell them which menu items had the fewest calories. The results? Consumers had no clue....

If you guessed "Tuna Melt"—-you're smarter than approximately 96% of consumers. The Steakhouse Beef Dip with cheese and dressing actually has the fewest calories, with 730, whereas the Tuna Melt weighs in at a hefty 1,420.

You can tell where this is going.

It's a non-sequitur to state that since people can't guess Calories in fast food, public policy must require Calorie estimates in restaurants. While those leading the CSPI and AHA would almost certainly like this to be the case, whether the public would actually benefit from such high-level information is entirely unclear.

That's because there is a serious disagreement within and between scientific communities, doctors, advocacy groups, and consumers about which diet is best for human health and longevity -- not to mention enjoyment!

While almost all people seem to agree the *best* food is that which is fresh and is prepared by the consumer, they do not agree on which foods those should be!

I believe that the number of Calories, by itself, does not provide sufficient information for many, if not most, dieters. Unless you are solely counting calories and nothing else, a list of the total number of Calories on an overhead menus is nearly worthless. It simply doesn't provide what you believe you need to make a good choice.

Many philosophies of eating (e.g. low-fat or low-carb) do not depend on counting calories. Instead, they depend on counting a component of calories: fats, carbs, protein, and (usually left out) alcohol.

Even further, many diets insist should certain types of carbs (e.g. empty sugars and starches) or fats (e.g. trans and saturated fats) should be restricted.

Are we to require that every fast-food restaurant list every single subcomponent of Calories on their menus? Many already do online and in stores, and that's what I use to make my choices.

How does listing Calorie information help these below-Calorie dieters at all? It doesn't, and forcibly listing a crude estimate of the number of Calories in a food may falsely indicate to those not on a diet that counting Calories is the preferred or best or even the only way to healthy diet.

Food Policy

Over at Mark's Daily Apple, there is discussion of those calorie-posting requirements for restaurants.

I have several concerns about these requirements: they are an example of 1) a completely ineffective policy 2) imposed through a mindless requirement on chain-store operators, 3) seemingly ignorant of the results of similar interventions. I think this policy is entirely ineffective, and should be laughed at. Even those who disrespect economic liberty should demand a regulatory policy based on more than the whims, hopes, and dreams of light-weight health lobbyists.

So my comments began "Repeat after me: THIS IS INEFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT POLICY!" And I'd like to expand on them here.

Counting Calories for Mr. Popcorn

The man told Dr. Rose that he had eaten microwave popcorn at least twice a day for more than 10 years....

She asked the man to stop eating microwave popcorn.....

Six months later, the man has lost 50 pounds...

Mr. Popcorn's 50 lb weight loss is entirely reasonable, given that he was obese to begin with.

From a strict caloric intake point of view, if he abstained from 2 bags of popcorn for 180 days, and did not change his diet or energy output in any other way, he would have eaten roughly (180 days)*(2 bags/day)*(480 calories per bag) 172,800 fewer calories over 6 months.

At 3500 calories per pound of body fat, that translates into 172,800/3500 = 49.4 pounds of fat dropped just by kicking his two bag a day habit.


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