Would You Like Extra Calories With That?

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Yesterday, Mya posted about a study that showed eating fast food was associated with an increase in these measures associated with metabolic syndrome (high BMI, large waist and high blood pressure).  As evidence mounts that eating fast food can contribute to overweight and obesity, many cities and states are considering legislation to require these establishments to include nutrition information on their menus.Nathans

Last year, New York City began requiring some chain restaurants to post calories on menus. Health officials hoped it would curb the number of obese New Yorkers. But do these measures affect how people choose their foods?

One year later, two studies show differing results from the calorie count experiment.

The first study examined 1,156 fast-food purchases in low-income, minority neighborhoods. The authors found that although nearly 28% of people who saw calorie labels said it influenced their choices, they did not find any change in calories purchased.

The second study, conducted by New York City health officials and presented at the 2009 Obesity Society conference, reported that customers who took the calorie information into account (about 15% of those surveyed) bought about 106 fewer calories than customers who didn’t use the information.

While it’s probably too early to say whether or not these initiatives will make a difference in people’s food choices in the long run, experience has shown that knowledge alone doesn’t typically translate into behavior change.

What do you think – will putting calorie counts on the menu help people make healthier choices and reduce their caloric intake? Are there policies that could nudge people toward healthy behavior?

AICR offers tips, self-assessment tools, and ideas for small step dietary changes to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Read more about calories and fast food from AICR Nutrition Consultant, Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN.

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    Investigating the Energy-Cancer Link

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    More news on calorie restriction, from Dr. Stephen D. Hursting, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin. If restricting calories delays and/or prevents tumor formation – as a wide body of research shows – the question is how. And why does obesity increase the risk of cancer? (It does: If you haven’t already read about it – take a look at AICR’s new analysis on the obesity-cancer link.)

    Dr. Hursting’s lab is trying to figure out what’s going on in the link between energy intake and cancer. He talks about the animal research involving a key factor in metabolizing energy: IGF-1, which is linked to increased risk of cancer. His research has shown that calorie restriction and obesity both appear to share a common signaling pathway.

    He also spoke about some intriguing, relatively new research looking at how exercise plays a role in cancer prevention and energy. Although it looks like exercise does add to the calorie restriction effect, he said, obesity prevention by exercise is not the same as by weight. Two animals can be the same weight – one by diet and the other by exercise – yet there appear to be different signaling effects and gene expressions happening.

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      Restricting Calories: Preventing Cancer?

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      The morning research conference session starts out with the tantalizing question of how can delay aging, asked by Rafael de Cabo, PhD. Dr. Cabo, who works at NIH’s National Institute on Aging, said how in the lab, the only way that we can restrict aging so far is by calorie restriction. Caloric restriction also delays tumor formation. (In lab research, caloric restriction diets are usually extreme.)

      Caloric restriction seems counter-intuitive, he explains. You would think that lowering one’s calories – energy – would lead to fatigue and the organisms’ functions would shut down. But that is not the case; it somehow uses the energy it has in a different way.

      Somehow, Dr. Cabo said, the organism or cell has a way to sense the nutrients. Dr. Cabo presented his lab’s research on the link between a specific gene — Nrf2 – and caloric restriction. He is looking at if Nrf2 activates the effect of calorie restriction, and if so, how it works. As usual, his research is turning up more questions and is ongoing.

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