Read Yourself Thin?

Need to lose some pounds before the holidays? Then start reading. Yes, yes, we know you’re already reading this blog (thank you)…but what you really need to start doing, according to a new study, is reading food labels while you shop.

You see, people, and women in particular, who read food labels while they grocery shop weigh, on average, 9 pounds less than people who don’t.

An international team of scientists led by Maria Loureiro, of the University of Santiago de Compostela, in Spain analyzed more than 25,000 observations on health, eating and shopping habits from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey.  Among the data collected were responses about reading nutritional information in supermarkets.

First we analyzed who read the nutritional label when purchasing foods, and then we moved on to the relationship with their weight,” said Loureiro.

The study found big differences between the people who read food labels and those who did not. Interestingly, smokers paid little attention to the nutritional information on foods.

Their lifestyle involves less healthy habits and, as a consequence, it could be the case that they are not so worried about the nutritional content of the food they eat, according to our results,” the researchers suggested.

People who live in cities were the most careful about reading food labels. People with high school and college educations also paid more attention to nutritional labels. Fifty-eight percent of men took the time to read labels, compared with 74% of women. And white women who lived in cities read food labels most often.

On average, women who read the nutritional information have a body-mass index of 1.48 points lower, whereas this difference is just 0.12 points in men,” Loureiro said. “We know that this information can be used as a mechanism to prevent obesity.”

The researchers suggest that campaigns and public policy should be designed to promote the use of nutritional labeling, not just on the foods we buy in stores but also on menus at restaurants and other public establishments.

As someone, who lives the vida low-carb, I for one would fully support this move.  Would you?

Dieters Delight

If  the first thing you do when  grocery shopping is check the label for calorie content, then we have some welcome news.   Scientists estimate that calorie counts on food labels may be off by as much as 25%.

For example, independent nutritionists found that a small pepperoni pizza had only 386 calories compared to the 422 stated on the label.

Calorie calculation was created 120 years ago.  Using a device called a bomb calorimeter, American agricultural chemist Wilbur Olin Atwater burned food samples and measured the amount of energy released from the heat this produced.  He then estimated the amount of this energy the body used up, by calculating the energy of undigested food in feces and other waste products.   Atwater concluded that every gram of carbohydrates produced four calories, every gram of fat, nine calories and every gram of protein, four calories.

Ever since, these figures have been set in stone.

However new research by independent nutritionist Dr. Geoffrey Livesey, and others, has shown that the amount of calories we digest in certain foods varies. Livesey therefore suggests that the calorie content of food should be re-calculated according to its Net Metabolizable Energy otherwise known as the amount of calories left  for your body to use after the calories used in digesting it have been subtracted.  ‘We need to take into account all the considerable knowledge we have learnt since 1889 and start applying it,” said Dr. Livesey.

His findings were reviewed by the World Health Organization in 2007, which concluded his research was sound.

Your Word on Health bloggers will be celebrating the demise of calories this lunchtime with pepperoni pizza!  What else?!?