May 27, 2015

Research Casts Doubt on Calorie Count Accuracy

There is good news and bad news.   The good news is that the nutrition facts on your food may be overstating your food’s calorie count, so you may be ingesting far fewer calories than you realize.  The bad news is that this does not mean you should eat more.
Image Source: Wiki Commons

A recent New York Times article claims that a recent study found that the traditional method of discerning the calories in food is flawed, resulting in overestimates of the caloric values of high-fiber and high-protein foods. 

The article indicates that the traditional method for discerning the caloric value of foods counts the number of calories in food but does not account for how completely the human body absorbs those calories.  The article explains that the traditional method is most accurate for foods that are easily digested – like highly processed foods.  For other, more complex foods like nuts, meat, and high-fiber foods, scientists now understand that a significant number of calories are lost in an effort to digest the food.

The article notes that nutritionists caution that a lower calorie-count does not mean people should eat more.  Instead, some nutritionists are advocating for a new system for determining the caloric value of food (i.e., a system that measures the caloric value of food and the food’s digestibility).  This system has been presented to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization but has not been adopted.