Entries in Calories (29)


Children Are Consuming Fewer Calories, CDC Says

Steven Puetzer/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- While 17 percent of American children and adolescents are still obese, they are consuming fewer calories than they were a decade ago, according to a new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey says boys are now taking in about 2,100 calories a day, while girls are consuming 1,755.  That's down from the 2,258 and 1,831 calories boys and girls, respectively, took in between 1999 and 2000.

In the survey, the CDC also notes that kids are now getting more of their calories from protein and less from carbohydrates.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Calorie Counts: How Accurate Are They?

Thinkstock Images/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- They are supposed to help America's obesity problem: calorie counts boldly displayed on restaurant menus across the country -- important information, considering Americans now eat one-third of their meals outside the home.

Two states and nine counties require them Tuesday, and by the middle of next year, a federal law is expected to force chain restaurants, convenience stores and vending machines nationwide to post calorie counts.

But how accurate are those numbers that so affect your waistline?

A 2011 study by Tufts University sampling food from 42 restaurants says it depends.

Fast food restaurants were the most accurate because of the uniform recipes and portions, but there were wide variations found in sit-down restaurants.

"We found that 20 percent of the foods we tested had 100 calories or more over what was stated on the menu," Lorien Urban, a postdoctoral associate in the energy metabolism lab at Tufts University and first author of the study, told ABC News. "We would consider that to be a considerable amount."

Urban explained that consuming an extra 100 calories per day can lead to an extra 10 pounds in one year.

Most concerning was that a majority of the errors Urban and her colleagues found were made on the diet side of the menu.

"These were the foods that people who are trying to manage their weight would gravitate towards and they may be getting more calories than they expect," she said.

ABC News sent producers in three cities that already require posting menu calories to major chains to do a sampling under the direction of a nationally known lab and found that more than half of the low-cal meals tested had more calories than listed on the menu.

In total 24 food samples from four sit-down restaurants and one McDonald's were collected and the results were surprising.

McDonald's did the best. Its Big Mac Meal (posted: 930) and its Premium Chicken Sandwich (posted: 400) tested 30 calories below the menu posting.

But the sit-down restaurants had results sometimes wildly different than advertised.

In all, only one calorie count was accurate -- a Skinnylicious chicken salad sandwich from the Cheesecake Factory.

Eleven meals had more calories than on the menu and 10 had fewer calories. Some were over by only 40 calories; another was over by as much as 420 calories, again at the Cheesecake Factory: this time an order of the fish and chips dinner.

Urban said that fast food restaurants tended to be more accurate than sit-down because of the formulaic preparation that fast food restaurants use.

"Things are arriving already packaged into the restaurants and it's just a matter of warming it up and serving it to the consumer," she said. "A sit-down restaurant, things are being prepared on [the] spot [and] by chance some extra butter gets into the pan."

That can change the calorie amount.

All the restaurants and their trade association say that most calorie counts are as accurate as possible and tested extensively to make sure.

They conceded that there are variations, mostly due to portion size and individual restaurant preparation, and that the menus warn actual calories may vary.

What can you do? Take control of what is put on top of the entree by asking for everything fattening -- such as cheeses, sauces or dressings -- on the side.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Not Just How Many Calories Kids Eat, It's Also What They Eat

(NEW YORK) -- With childhood obesity becoming a greater problem in the U.S., a new study finds that weight control is more than just a matter of counting calories.    

About 32 percent of U.S. children are overweight or obese, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Experts say junk food is partly to blame for their growing waistlines.  Kids today eat nearly three snacks a day, compared to just one for children 30 years ago.
For a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers Brian Wansink, Ph.D., Mitsuru Shimizu, Ph.D., and Adam Brumberg looked at the effects of snacks on 201 children in grades three through six.
Some were given high-nutrient snacks of cheese and vegetables while others got low-nutrient snacks of potato chips.
Allowed to eat as much as they wanted, those children who ate the cheese-and-vegetable combination consumed 72 percent fewer calories than the potato-chip group. In other words, they needed far fewer calories to feel full.  
The study authors conclude that a high-nutrient combination snack of cheese and vegetables can be effective in reducing kids' calorie consumption during snacking.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Alcohol Calories Nearly Equal Soda's for US Adults

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The holiday season is generally a time we let ourselves overdo it a bit when it comes to drinking alcohol. But did you ever wonder how many calories in your diet come from booze?
You might be surprised.
On a typical day, one-third of men and 18 percent of women consume calories from alcoholic beverages. Now a study from the National Health and Nutrition Survey finds that American adults get almost as many empty calories from alcohol as they do from soft drinks.
Soda and other sweetened beverages are already the heavies in campaigns against obesity. Nearly 20 percent of men and six percent of women take in about 300 calories per day from alcohol.

  • two or more 12-ounce beers
  • more than two and a half glasses of wine, or
  • more than 4.5 ounces of liquor.

Furthermore, men take in more calories from alcohol than women -- and younger adults more than older adults. And beer is the biggest single source of alcoholic calories in men.
So when someone asks "who's counting?" -- Remember to keep track of calories, not just drinks.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Kids Who Eat Out Consume More Calories, Study Finds

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Children and teens are consuming more calories when they eat out, according to a study released Monday by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

For the study, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, the researchers surveyed almost 5,000 children ages 2-11 and another 5,000 between 12 and 19 years old about food eaten outside of the home. On a given day, data shows that about 40 percent of adolescents are consuming fast food or beverages, and a third of 2-11-year-olds are doing so. Children who eat out tend to take in between 126 to 309 more calories per day.  

The study's findings also indicate that diverse communities are impacted differently.  The effects of eating out were apparently much worse for children and adolescents living in low-income households, says Lisa Powell, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Fast food restaurants are not the only culprits of high calories, the authors say. Nutritional intake increased for everything they looked at with sitting down at a restaurant that includes even good things such as protein, according to Dr. Tara Harwood, a pediatric nutritionist with the Cleveland Clinic. "It's just too many calories that you have to watch out for," she says.
Setting aside the nutritional value in fast food restaurants, experts find that it's the larger portions that are problematic. The increased caloric intake adds up, Harwood says.

"Even with the sit-down restaurants the portions are huge. They're way bigger than we need to be eating, and the problem is when you put the food in front of someone it's easy to eat all of it even past when you're feeling full," she says.
"One hundred thirty calories a day and 160 a day for the full service restaurant, and that can equal close to half a pound a week," Harwood warns.

Powell says it suggests a re-evaluation of the tendency to eat out.
"We have these additional calories and we have these poor nutrients being taken in.  We really have to rethink some of these patterns," she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Soda Makers Plan Calorie-Counting Vending Machines

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The battle against obesity seems to have turned largely into a war on soda.  

All across the nation there are calls for taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks and limitations on where they can be sold.  The most well-publicized salvo is New York City’s ban on large sugary drinks sold in restaurants, movie theaters and from street carts.

Beverage companies are scrambling to show they’re willing to change their ways to help avoid even more strong-arming.  They’re marketing smaller drink sizes and running their own public awareness campaigns for healthy eating.

Their latest preemptive move, announced this week, literally puts the decision to guzzle a sugary drink at a consumer’s fingertips.  Soft-drink makers, including Coca-Cola and Pepsico, say they will list the calorie counts for sodas directly on the buttons of their vending machines.  The new industry-designed machines go way beyond government proposals, which would only require that calorie counts be displayed on the side of a machine.

Before someone presses 240 -- the number of calories in a 20-ounce Coke -- the machine will scroll a reminder that they can always select a lower-calorie alternative.  The machines, which go public in 2013, will also feature small decals with sayings such as “Calories Count: Check Then Choose.”

David Just, the director of Cornell University’s center for behavioral economics in child nutrition programs, said he thinks the machines are a good idea and make a lot more sense than much of the anti-soda legislation.  He said he’s worried that moves like the New York City ban will backfire.

“If we do something that specifically targets soda and we don’t know that it will have a huge impact on obesity, we are taking a big risk that it will be ineffective while creating a lot of resentment from consumers and retailers.  If we tick off both sides in this transaction, it will be a lot more difficult to introduce new legislation in the future,” said Just.

Just said he thought it makes more sense to get beverage companies to make voluntary changes like the calorie-aware vending machines.  He thinks there are other things they can do too.

“Rather than doing a hard sell on sugary drinks to kids and teens, beverage companies could market artificially sweetened and low calorie beverages to them instead,” he said.

Yale University’s Kelly Brownell can be pardoned for not believing beverage company tactics alone will help lower soda consumption and lower obesity rates.  Brownell has led the charge to legislate sugar-laden beverages for more than a decade.

“In this country, we start by hoping people will change their behavior on their own. If the default approach of imploring people to change their ways doesn’t work, then we ask the government to step in and take action,” he said.

To Brownell, regulating soda is public health policy 101 -- and it has plenty of precedents.  He points to smoking, seat belts and immunization as examples where there was a lot of opposition to regulation at first, but the objections soon receded.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fast Food Diet Participants Paid to Purposely Gain Weight

Thinkstock Images/Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) -- Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are making an unusual offer: They are paying people to add fat to their own bodies by eating an extra 1,000-calorie fast food meal each day for three months.

Dr. Samuel Klein, the lead researcher in the study, wanted to do some basic research on why only some people who gain weight develop diabetes and hypertension, while others do not. It's something he said he couldn't research by feeding food pellets to lab animals.

"What you learn in rodents does not always translate to people," Klein said. "What you learn on flies and worms won't translate to people."

Fast food turns out to be a perfect food pellet replacement because it is good for measuring exactly what people are eating. The five restaurants chosen for the study were McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC.

"[Fast food restaurants] have very regulated food content," said Klein, the lead researcher of the study. "We know exactly the calories and macro-nutrient composition within fast food restaurants, so it's a very inexpensive, easy and tasteful way to give people extra calories."

There was also a cash incentive. Participants could earn up to $3,500, depending on how long it took them to reach the weight goal. They had to gain five percent to six percent of their body weight during the three-month span and then they could work to shed the pounds again. Researchers monitored their weight from week to week.

The hospital put out an ad seeking participants, and several people came forward.

Dawn Freeman, a 50-year-old nurse who had finished the program, started out weighing 170 pounds. She said she gained 16 pounds over the course of eight weeks.

She was compensated a total of $2,650 for her effort, including $50 to lose all the weight again, which she did with diet and a lot of walking exercise to help her get down to 162.8 pounds. The hospital guides participants through the weight loss.

Freeman said gaining weight fast -- with a doctor's permission -- only sounds easy and even seemed easy at the first meal, when she ate a Big Mac and large fries from McDonalds.

"It was really good and you know the next night I went to Taco Bell and it was, it was wonderful," she said. "This is after I have already eaten dinner."

But Freeman eventually found out that gaining weight in a hurry is really hard.

"This is not pleasant for them," Klein said. "It's not easy to stuff your face every day for a long period of time."

Freeman said she started to feel awful after two weeks, "I could hardly breathe anymore."

Now she is glad it's over. But another participant, Dave Giocolo, was about to find out that this experiment was not a food lovers' dream.

The 48-year-old bathroom design and supply salesman, said when he heard the medical school's ad on the radio while commuting to work, he called them right away.

The St. Louis native's starting weight was 249.9 pounds with a goal of adding about 15 pounds for the study. So Giocolo, who never went without his morning McDonald's breakfast burrito, started eating quarter pounders for the sake of science.

He made so many drive-in runs that he knew the calories by heart, but around week four, those burgers and fries started to catch up with him. Giocolo said his knees and ankles started aching.

"It's getting harder to move," he said.

Metabolism is a mysterious thing. For Giocolo, the weight went on, slowly it seems. One week he actually lost about a pound. That's when researchers told him to up the quantities. Around week 11, he said he was ready to be done with it.

Just last week, Giocolo finished the weight gain part of the study, hitting 268 pounds -- a gain of just over 18 pounds. He was compensated $3,225, and will receive more when he gets his weight back down to baseline.

Now his challenge is to lose the weight, helped maybe by the fact that he said he has lost his appetite for fast food, at least for a while.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


For Calories, It's All About Quality over Quantity, Harvard Study Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- When is a calorie not just a calorie? When it comes to losing weight, according to a new study from Harvard University. The results found that the number of calories consumed is not necessarily as important as the quality of those calories: That is to say, the kind of calories the body gets may affect how efficiently people burn their body's energy, which can be key for losing weight and keeping it off.

"It's not that calories don't matter, but the quality of the calories going in can affect the number of calories going out," said study author Dr. David Ludwig, at Boston Children's Hospital.

The researchers studied 21 overweight and obese adults, starting each on a diet that helped them lose at least 12.5 percent of their body weight. Then, to help them maintain that weight loss, the researchers put the participants on a cycle of three diets, and they were to stick to each for four weeks.

One was a low-fat diet, similar to the one recommended by the American Heart Association, which had participants reduce their dietary fat, that emphasized eating whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Another was modeled on the Atkin's Diet, a plan in which participants ate more protein and fat but severely curbed their consumption of breads, pastas and other carbohydrates.

The final diet was a low-glycemic index plan, a model based on regulating the body's blood sugar levels used in many commercial diet plans, such as Nutrisystem and the Zone diet. The plan didn't require the participants to reduce the fat or carbohydrates in their diets but focused on the quality of the carbohydrates they ate. The plan pushed participants to replace some grain products and starches with vegetables, legumes, fruits and foods rich in healthy fats.

The results weren't good news for low-fat diet aficionados. When dieters followed that plan, their bodies burned fewer calories than when they were following the low-carb or low-glycemic index diets. And the low-fat diet changed certain metabolic factors in their bodies that typically predicted weight regain.

The low-carb diet seemed to help participants burn the most calories. But it also increased certain markers of stress and inflammation in the body, such as the stress hormone cortisol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other health problems.

In the end, the researchers found that the low-glycemic index diet struck the right balance for the participants. It helped the dieters burn more calories, though not as many as the low-carb diet, but didn't seem to increase disease-causing stress markers in the body.

The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The results provide physiological evidence for a growing consensus among doctors and diet specialists that low-fat diets, a longtime staple of advice for shedding pounds, aren't as beneficial as many once thought.

"There is a growing feeling that we need to go beyond low-fat diets, that was too simplistic a vision," Ludwig said. "Instead, focus on reducing highly processed carbohydrates."

Heavily processed carbohydrates like white bread, white rice and some breakfast cereals, to name a few make sugar readily accessible, rather than securing it to more healthy elements, like the fiber in an apple. Ludwig said easily absorbable sugar leads to a rapid surge and crash in blood sugar after a meal, which can wreak havoc on weight loss.

Other studies have found results in favor of weight-loss diets based on the glycemic index, including one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010 that found that the diet plan was the most effective in helping people maintain their weight loss.

Dr. Louis Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital, said the glycemic index has become a key part of his practice in helping obese patients lose weight.

"Many obesity specialists who treat patients all day long, as we do, favor low glycemic diets, those with less sugar and starch, because patients seem to do better," he said.

But not everyone favors the diet plan. Critics argue that the nutrition standards of the glycemic index are out of whack compared with what people know are healthier choices, giving foods like candy and soda healthier ratings than potatoes or rice. Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, director of the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, said the concept is too confusing for most consumers to follow for the long-term.

The study did not follow patients for the long term, and the authors note that it's difficult to say whether the dieters would have maintained their weight loss outside of the study's highly controlled setting.

Ultimately, doctors agree that balanced diets that cut out junk are the most healthful ones. Sarah Bleach, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the best weight loss advice boils down to a simple message: eat fewer calories than you burn through exercise.

"Even if the type of calorie matters for maintaining weight loss, it still boils down to simple arithmetic -- eat less, exercise more," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cool Temperatures Could Help Burn Calories, Lead to Weight Loss

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Cool temperatures may activate “good” fat in the body that burns calories and ultimately leads to weight loss, according to a new study published in the journal PNAS USA Early Edition.

The “good fat” is called brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, and is naturally found in humans. It takes calories from normal white fat, which stores energy, and burns it. Past trials have shown that brown fat can be stimulated in mice, showing promising signs for future weight-loss therapies, but scientists have not shown how to successfully stimulate it in humans.

Researchers from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston wanted to compare the effects of ephedrine, a stimulant that is used in weight-loss drugs, versus the cool temperatures, which scientists predicted would activate the brown fat.

The team tested 10 study participants in three different ways. They were given injections of ephedrine, or saline solution as a control, or made to wear a “cooling vest,” which had 57-degree water pumping through it.

After each phase, brown fat activity was measured using a PET/CT scan. Researchers found that ephedrine did not stimulate brown fat activity. But after study participants wore cooling vests for two hours, brown fat showed significant stimulation on the scans.

Both ephedrine and the cooling vests stimulated the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which controls our fight-or-flight response. Symptoms of this response include an increase in blood pressure and heart rate and the slowing of digestion. More symptoms of the response showed after the ephedrine shot than while participants wore the vest.

But Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Center, said neither ephedrine nor any type of cooling vest should be the go-to intervention for a weight loss regimen.

“One is unsafe, the other is uncomfortable,” said Katz. “If people are willing to put with discomfort, how about they try eating better and being more active?”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tiny Treats: America’s Favorite Desserts Seem to Be Shrinking

Baked By Melissa(NEW YORK) -- The icing on the cake. The cherry on the sundae. For many of us, nothing tops desserts.

But something confounding is happening to our confections: Our tarts are now tiny. Our Danish is downright diminutive.

And just when you didn’t think your favorite sweet treat couldn’t get any smaller, there’s New York City’s trendy micro-cupcake maker, Baked by Melissa.

Standing an inch tall and an inch and a half wide, these tiny cupcakes, stuffed with flavors like peanut butter and jelly or s’mores, pack between 38 and 45 calories each and sell for about $1. Owner Melissa Bushell said the size of her cupcakes appeals to her customers because they get the best of both diet worlds.

“Everybody’s health conscious these days and we like to indulge,” Bushell said. “I think that when we started the company it was the beginning of the economic decline and people were feeling like they want to save their money but indulging in a bite-size stuffed cupcake for just a dollar or 12 for $10, it’s not a lot.”

Of course, the concept is not entirely new. Dunkin’ Donuts has offered munchkin doughnut holes for decades. But with the new focus on portion control and serving size, all kinds of sweets are downsizing.

Cinnabon introduced mini-buns -- alongside its 730-calorie classic roll. Starbucks has stocked its shelves with petite treats, such as the cake pop. Dairy Queen now offers a mini-blizzard, and at Baskin Robbins, cake bites.

And then there’s your grocery aisle, filled with “two-bite” bags of cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels and more.

Still, if America’s sweet tooth is robust as ever -- we just spent an estimated $2.1 billion on Easter candy -- why aren’t our desserts? Bon Appetit magazine’s chef Mary Nolan said it’s all about bakers giving the customer what they want.

“They’re thinking people might not commit to say, the whole pie, but if we can sell them a tiny miniature pie that’s just so cute, who’s going to pass up on that?” she said.

Maybe the health conscious can have their cake and eat it too and if you have a little self-discipline, and that’s a big “if,” perhaps we no longer have to worry about our eyes being bigger than our stomachs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio