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Study examines calorie information from restaurants, packaged foods
Date:1/6/2010

BOSTON (January 6, 2010) As a growing number of fast food and chain restaurants display the calorie content of their dishes on websites and menus, a study suggests some of this information may be unreliable.

Researchers at Tufts University analyzed the calorie content of 18 side dishes and entrees from national sit-down chain restaurants, 11 side dishes and entrees from national fast food restaurants and 10 frozen meals purchased from supermarkets. They compared their results to the calorie content information provided to the public by the restaurants and food companies. "Because we analyzed a relatively small sample of food, additional research testing more foods will be needed to see if this is a nation-wide problem," says senior author Susan B. Roberts, PhD, a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

On average, the calorie content information provided by the restaurants was 18 percent less than the researcher's calorie content analysis. Two side dishes exceeded the restaurant's reported calorie information by nearly 200 percent. The calorie content information reported by packaged food companies averaged 8 percent less than the researchers' analysis. "If people use published calorie contents for weight control, discrepancies of this magnitude could result in weight gain of many pounds a year," Roberts says.

Writing in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the authors attribute the smaller 8 percent discrepancy between their results and the calorie content information from the frozen food companies to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight of Nutrition Fact information labels. Current FDA rules are more lenient towards underreporting calories than over reporting them.

"We tested frozen foods straight out of their packages. For the restaurant foods we first calculated calorie content based on the portion we were served," Robert
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Contact: Andrea Grossman
617-636-3728
Tufts University, Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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