Until recently, dieting Americans have been urged to eat less — or more — of a certain type of food like carbs, fat, protein or fiber, rather than pay attention to those pesky numbers.
But this year, chain restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores, coffee chains and vending machines will be required under the health care law to post the amount of calories in each item on menus.
And a new book, called “Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics,” spells out why, if we want to lose weight, there is just no way around this basic fact of life: Eat fewer calories and you will drop the pounds.
The book, by two well-respected professors of nutrition science — Marion Nestle of New York University, who also writes the Food Politics blog, and Malden Nesheim of Cornell University — looks at the messy politics and shaky science behind calorie estimates and recommendations about types of calories.
But most importantly, they stress that the amount of calories you eat is more important than the kind of calories you eat.
In other words, whether you cut out 100 calories a day by avoiding soda or by eating a smaller burger, the decrease in calories will help you lose weight. Especially if you can add a daily walk or some other exercise to your routine.
To illustrate some of the book’s points, CBS News’ Healthpop.com presented 10 common calorie myths the authors say need to be busted. Here is a sampling:
1) Myth: We’re a country of couch potatoes, that’s why we can’t burn off those calories we eat.
Truth: There’s no compelling evidence that people are less active now than they were 30 years ago. Basically, we’re eating more calories because portion sizes — like our waistlines — have grown so much bigger.
2) Myth: Don’t skip breakfast if you want to cut calories.
Truth: The science is mixed on this, and many studies that urge us to eat breakfast were funded by the cereal companies. Do what works best for you. If skipping it makes you over-eat later, then don’t skip it.
3) Myth: Some foods, like celery, have “negative calories” because it takes lots of energy to digest them.
Truth: The celery growers would probably love for this to be true, but it’s not. High-fiber foods may provide less energy than easily digested food, but you’re not burning more calories to break them down in your tummy.
4) Myth: Calories in alcohol don’t count.
Truth: Don’t kid yourself. Alcohol calories count just as much as those from food. If you want to decrease your daily calories, consider cutting back on the alcohol you drink.
In other health news:
Irregular heart beat poses greater stroke risk for women than men. Older women (age 65-plus) with the irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation face a 14 percent greater risk of stroke than men with the same condition, Canadian researchers report. A HealthDay news story says the raised risk remained higher even when the women were taking the blood-thinner warfarin (Coumadin) to prevent stroke.
Fallopian tubes: Source of deadly ovarian cancer? Recent research suggests that a woman’s fallopian tubes are the true source of some of the deadliest ovarian cancers, msnbc.com reports, and some doctors are recommending to women that removing the tubes could lower the risk of developing the disease in those who are at high risk.
Long commutes in traffic bad for blood pressure, stress. CNN.com reports on a study that shows that a long daily commute in traffic can lead to chronic stress, higher blood pressure and less time to exercise. Are you shocked? Yeah, me neither. But researchers at Washington University in St. Louis wanted to prove scientifically that our clogged freeways are bad for us. They studied nearly 4,300 commuters in Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin and found that the longer they had to drive to get to work, the less exercise they did and greater health problems they had.
Photo credit: kitchentalks.com