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FDA Chief Distorts Data While Cheerleading for Mandatory Calorie Counts

Scott Gottlieb claims requiring the numbers on menus "does reduce overall caloric intake," which the research does not show.

Eduardo Munoz / Reuters / NewscomEduardo Munoz / Reuters / NewscomThe federal requirement that chain restaurants include calorie counts on their menus took effect yesterday, and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was so excited that he got a bit carried away in describing the evidence that such mandates make people thinner. "We know that providing calorie information on menu labels actually inspires consumers to make smarter choices about overall consumption, when they want to," Gottlieb told The Washington Post. "It does reduce overall caloric intake. Studies show a reduction of anywhere from 30 to 50 calories a day, on average, for consumers who are eating out."

That article links to a February 2018 analysis in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the conclusion of which is not nearly as confident. "Findings from a small body of low-quality evidence suggest that nutritional labelling comprising energy information on menus may reduce energy purchased in restaurants," the authors say. "Additional high-quality research in real-world settings is needed to enable more certain conclusions."

A December 2017 review in the journal Obesity was similarly tentative. "Because of a lack of well-powered studies with strong designs, the jury is still out on the degree to which menu labeling encourages lower-calorie purchases and whether that translates to a healthier population," the authors say. "Although the limited existing research finds little evidence of menu labeling shifting fast-food purchases, there are more promising findings that it may influence consumers at certain types of restaurants and in other types of establishments such as cafeterias. It is difficult to know what a meaningful reduction in calorie intake amounts to, particularly when it is hard to measure how people compensate over the course of a week."

Gottlieb, by contrast, asserts that requiring calories counts "does reduce overall caloric intake," which none of these studies shows. Even the studies that report a small decrease in calories purchased cannot tell us the net effect, if any, on total consumption in any given week or month. Yet Gottlieb goes on to calculate that "over the course of a year," 30 to 50 fewer calories a day "could translate into three to five less pounds gained," which "could go a long way toward reducing childhood obesity."

Or not. Gottlieb can be a cheerleader for paternalistic schemes or a scientist offering an honest assessment of the evidence. He cannot be both.

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  • Citizen X - #6||

    Studies show a reduction of anywhere from 30 to 50 calories a day, on average, for consumers who are eating out.

    That's like, what, two French fries?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    You eat french fries while you are eating out your lady? NTTIAWWT.

  • Yellow Tony||

    Do you not use grease to properly lubricate the orifices of your partner?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Gotta keep my energy up, hoss.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Just as long as you stay away from red meat.

  • ||

    That's like, what, two French fries?

    Two french fries the two times a month you eat at a place that serves fries. The place that serves garlic cheese bread with a plate of oil for dipping doesn't have to give you a breakdown of anything.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Really, we need healthy fake bad food. Why is that so hard? GMO everything beyond recognition.

  • SoCal Deathmarch||

    "Hold on, I'm ordering the Kale Double Double Bacon Broccoli Supreme Combo with Extra Electrolytes"

  • croaker||

    Seems to me these government officials would serve the world better as hog chow.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Please, no, don't poison my bacon like that!

  • Jerryskids||

    But what about if Hillary had been elected she would have appointed Food Police to stand inside restaurants and smack you for even looking at unhealthy food so hurray for Donald Trump and his most excellent and very good pick for FDA Commissioner and you should just shut up with your TDS !!!

  • Robert||

    True. This is Congress's doing, & I'm sure Gottlieb's approaching it in the least onerous way the FDA can get away w. He can't amend the statute.

  • Yellow Tony||

    I do calorie counting, and I will benefit from this mandate; however, I still find it to be specious and wrong. Not only is this more federal government overreach, but as the article lays out, the health effects are nebulous at best and nonexistent at worst. Anecdotally, at restaurants that do have their nutritional readily available (e.g. most chains), people still order whatever the hell they want--health be damned. Most people that are not eating well know their habits are deleterious; they know their calorie intake is prodigious. This mandate will not sway them because the reasons for their current diet are complicated (by how much, of course, varies). It's hubris to think that regulation like this will positively change a society.

    As a totally unrelated matter, what the fuck happened to this dimension's future me? Did the time police capture him to administer a worst punishment?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    He met a nice boy and settled down and goes by Mr. Gus now.

  • Yellow Tony||

    Ed: gone
    Links: gone
    This dimension's future me: gone
    Hope: dwindling
    I-I don't know what to do anymore.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Tony is still here.

  • Yellow Tony||

    Yeah, but, now it's only a twosome. I need a threesome to keep up with my voracious sexual appetite.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    The original Red Tony is also here. But he only likes the chubbalubs.

  • Yellow Tony||

    Just to be clear, John likes to crush blubbery pussy?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Yes. It is known.

  • Yellow Tony||

    Shit. I wonder if he tapes his encounters. I want to watch him harpoon some poon.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "I-I don't know what to do anymore."

    Steve Jobs is dead.

    Johnny Cash is dead.

    Bob Hope is dead.

    We have no jobs, no cash and no hope.

    You want to know what to do? Pray that Kevin Bacon doesn't die.

    :)

  • gaoxiaen||

    Or Meat Loaf.

  • BYODB||

    It's an extension of what every good Proglodyte thinks: If only we educated these fucking rubes a little harder, they'll finally do what we tell them to do!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Even if caloric counts on menus reduce caloric intake, the government should not be in the business of telling business what to put on their menus. Its an example of the Nanny-State being out of control.

    Another reason to cut the FDA budget by 50%+ tomorrow.

  • Tony||

    Another vulgar nanny-state folly that will serve to undermine the credibility of the politicians who want to actually improve society. Calorie counts are totally irrelevant when people sit or lie down for 99% of their day. The key to being fit is to eat whatever you want and live in a city where you have to walk to get places. Self-control will never overcome one of our most basic biological impulses.

  • Yellow Tony||

    Actually, this dimension's current me, a healthy diet should be one's priority. Casual exercise is helpful, but it doesn't have as big of an impact as maintaining a proper calorie budget.

    Calorie counts are totally irrelevant when people sit or lie down for 99% of their day
    This is a good point. Our bodies still run under the assumption that we're doing a lot of manual labor. It hasn't kept up with mankind's technological advancements that have made such labor necessary for the majority of the populace (in first world countries) obsolete.

  • Tony||

    Nobody knows what a healthy diet is, and it's probably not the same for everyone. I spent my childhood eating margarine instead of butter and nothing was seasoned properly, and now all of a sudden fats and salt aren't bad for you.

    I would go with the emerging censuses that sugars are a big culprit, diet-wise. For me, cutting sugary pop accounted for 15 pounds, and I lost even more that time I didn't drink alcohol.

  • Yellow Tony||

    Moderation is important, but it's quite hard to instill that into adults.

  • Tony||

    This country didn't become epidemically obese by mass coincidence. Thus the answer has to be environmental.

  • Don't look at me.||

    The tentacles of climate change know no bounds.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Even wealthy Romans became fat.

    Not enough exercise and limiting how much you eat.

  • SoCal Deathmarch||

    "Self-control will never overcome one of our most basic biological impulses."

    I'll take 'One of many reasons why Socialism is unworkable' for $500 Alex.

  • ||

    The key to being fit is to eat whatever you want and live in a city where you have to walk to get places.

    Every time I think I've got a pretty good bead on how stupid you actually are, you say something that completely surprises me.

  • Tony||

    Well epidemiology doesn't seem to have the first clue how to make Americans thin again. So just based on my observation having traveled the world, people are thin in cities, and it's not because they're all eating kale smoothies.

    They're fat in places where everyone takes cars to get everywhere. Walking around all day beats going to the gym for an hour hands down, because the latter can be wiped out by a donut.

  • ||

    They're fat in places where everyone takes cars to get everywhere. Walking around all day beats going to the gym for an hour hands down, because the latter can be wiped out by a donut.

    I may've been unclear, I wasn't surprised by a sudden display of intelligence.

  • Tony||

    I'm not sure source of the offense. Is it the libertarian predilection to assuming people fall into the categories "hard-working" and "lazy" and then the boner you get by morally condemning the latter? (Usually while arguing that you personally choose to be lazy and not a titan among men, so that's OK.)

  • ||

    I'm not sure source of the offense.

    Of course you aren't.

  • BYODB||

    This is actually not true at all, but it's cool that you think it is. Walking will burn more calories than driving, for sure, but cities don't actually trend thinner.

  • Tony||

    I think it is true, and I was offering observational evidence, but now that I've googled it, there seems to be a consensus about it based on data.

    Now if we're talking Times Square on a nice day, those are what we call tourists.

  • ||

    This is actually not true at all, but it's cool that you think it is.

    There's plenty of evidence and ninetiesh consensuses that epidemiology knows exactly how to make people thin again, just not directly against their own free will (as that wouldn't be science). There's plenty of evidence and fourish or fively consensuses that urbanization and obesity can and do go hand in hand (not always but Tony's not smart enough to present his dumb ideas with any nuance or depth). There's plenty of evidence and eleventy or twelfty consensuses that gym time, in combination with road time is superior to either one individually (but Tony's too busy obsessing about his own smug sense of moral superiority). There's plenty of evidence and a couple of handfuls of universal physical laws that dictate how time in the gym can easily surpass a day full of walking *and* the donut (that Tony's inability resist doesn't mean he's lazy)...

    But Tony's a dumb puppy walking after his own tail and Googling (poorly) once he's caught it. Just let him have his fun wouldja?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Got any Arxiv links I can read?

  • Tony||

    Looks like we're about even on the links department, and you're way down in providing an actual explanation about what you're talking about. So I'm gonna assume you're crying because someone made you think about how your life choices were mostly a waste.

  • ||

    Additional high-quality research in real-world settings is needed to enable more certain conclusions.

    No it's not. We've gradually increased the amount of labeling of all foods since the 90s and there's a similar mountain of public health data both before and after.

  • BYODB||


    Studies show a reduction of anywhere from 30 to 50 calories a day, on average, for consumers who are eating out."


    Even if that was true, that's insignificant.


    The fact is, most people have no fucking idea what a calorie is, or why they should or shouldn't eat more or less of them. Factually speaking, a calorie is generally a shitty metric for measuring how 'good' food is for you anyway. It's meaningless information without knowing your metabolism, at the very least.

  • Longtobefree||

    And yet, not a carb count in sight - - - - - -

    Good thing I don't own a restaurant; I would post a big sign saying "the calorie count of your meal will vary from zero (just a glass of water, no ice) to half a bazillion (A nice fried appetizer, Fettuccine Alfredo with sausages, lots of bread and butter, and the double chocolate everything sundae dessert and a bottle of wine with each course). Fight the government, #resist, and order one of everything!"

    I went out and ate a big Mac and a quarter pounder with cheese today as a protest.

  • kynodog||

    The Heart Attack Grill has the right idea. From Wikipedia =>


    "The Heart Attack Grill is an American hamburger restaurant in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. It makes a point of serving as unhealthy food as possible, that is, food which would cause a heart attack. Should an actual heart attack occur, the meal is free."


    In addition, if you don't finish your meal, a "nurse" administers 3 swats with a paddle in front of the crowd!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    The original AZ location used to also sell unfiltered Lucky Strikes until smoking indoors was made illegal.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    "We know that providing calorie information on menu labels actually inspires consumers to make smarter choices about overall consumption, when they want to," Gottlieb told The Washington Post.

    I think the key phrase there is "when they want to." Speaking for myself, I'll sometimes modify what I order based on the posted calorie count. Other times I just say "fuck it" and order whatever I feel like regardless of what a chubster it makes me feel like.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Woe be upon those who's calories counts are even the slightest bit off. Like foot long sandwiches that are only 11-1/2" long.

  • Rockabilly||

    fuck you ass hole

    I'll fucking eat what I want - so fuck off

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