A new study published in the journalJAMA Internal Medicine found that the average meal from independent and small-chain restaurants contains more than half of a person’s recommended daily calorie intake.
On average, meals from such restaurants contained around three times the amount of energy that an adult should consume in a single meal.
Many major restaurant chains across the U.S. seem to be trying to encourage obesityby serving meals that have calorie counts far exceeding the daily recommended amounts. In fact, most of them have been made to report the number of calories in each of their meals so that people are aware of what they are consuming.
However, this rule has not been applied to independent restaurants or small-chains.
By analyzing a total of 157 different meals (including side dishes) from 33 different restaurants in the Boston area the researchers were able to calculate the number of calories in meals from each of these individual or small-chain restaurants. The samples came from a variety of different restaurant types: American, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Greek, Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese.
The research, led by Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University, suggests that the new rules which are making big restaurant chains reveal the number of calories in each of their meals should be applied to all restaurants – regardless of size – given the huge benefit it would provide to public health.
According to the director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the HNRCA and lead author of the study, Susan B. Roberts:
“On average, the meals studied contained 1,327 calories, which significantly exceeds the estimated energy needs of an individual adult at a single meal. Meals from all restaurant types provided substantially more energy than is needed for weight maintenance.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently recommends that adults consume no more than 2,000 calories per day. However, 73% of the meals analyzed contained more than 1,000 calories, which is already more than half of the FDA recommendation.
Of all the restaurant types analyzed, the researchers found that that, on average, the type of meals with the most calories were Italian (1,755 calories), followed by American (1,494 calories) and Chinese (1,474 calories). The lowest calorie meals were Japanese (1,027 calories) and Vietnamese (922 calories).
On average, these smaller restaurant chains were also found to have more calories per meal than the largest national chain restaurants (1,437 calories vs 1,359).
Dr. Roberts, added: “These comparative findings suggest that both non-chain and chain restaurants contribute to the obesity epidemic, which is making people unhealthy and has a huge impact on health care costs.”
The first author of the study, Lorien Urban, Ph.D., postdoctoral scholar in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA, wrote:
“National recommendations for the prevention and treatment of obesity stressindividual self-monitoring of food consumption, but there is little available information on the energy content of foods offered by restaurants that are not required to postnutrition information.
Given that an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure of only 100 calories per day can lead to a weight gain of between six and fifteen pounds per year, our findings suggest that routine reporting of meal calorie content by all restaurants, not just large chains, would encourage individuals to make informed choices about their diet and would discourage restaurants from offering unhealthy portions.”
According to results from the The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey, only 5% of the U.S. population realizes that obesity raises cancer and respiratory disease risk. Many Americans don’t quite understand the full long-term consequences of obesity.
Obesity has become a major public health issue, currently over 12 states have obesity rates over 30%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With all states having failed to have met the the government’s Healthy People 2010 target.