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Studies reveal high fat, sodium content in restaurant meals.

Saturday, May 17th, 2014


 

Bloomberg News (5/14, Wayne) reports that the “average meal at a chain restaurant contains more than half the calories, 1.5 times as much sodium and almost all the fat that people are recommended to consume in an entire day,” according to a study published online May 13 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The University of Toronto researchers “analyzed nutritional information for 685 meals and 156 desserts reported by 26 sit-down restaurant chains” and found that the meals contained an average of “1,128 calories, or 56 percent of the US Food and Drug Administration’s 2,000 calorie-a-day recommendation.”

Reuters (5/14, Seaman) reports that in a separate study published online in the same issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, US Department of Agriculture Energy Metabolism Lab Director Dr. Susan Roberts, who is also a professor at Tufts University, and colleagues, analyzed the calories in 157 meals at small ethnic restaurants – American, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Mexican and Thai – in the Boston metropolitan area and found that the meals contained an average of 1,327 calories, or 66 percent of the FDA’s daily calorie-intake recommendation.

AFP (5/14) notes that the “Italian meals had the highest average calories per meal (1,755), followed by American (1,494 calories) and Chinese (1,474 calories). Vietnamese meals had the fewest calories on average (922), and Japanese meals had the second lowest (1,027).”

The New York Daily News (5/14, Miller, 543K) adds that the FDA is “working on legislation that will require chains with 20 or more locations to post calorie content for all of their menu items.” But the Dr. Roberts, the lead study author of the Boston area study, said that only “accounts for about half the nation’s restaurants. ‘Fifty percent of restaurant locations are small places that don’t post calories and aren’t going to have to when the new legislation comes in,’ she told the Daily News.”

The Boston Globe (5/14, Kotz, 250K) “Daily Dose” blog adds, “Other new research published in the same issue of JAMA Internal Medicine found that fast-food restaurants have done little to reduce their sodium content.” A study by “researchers from the Centers for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit nutrition activist group, found that sodium increased in restaurant meals by nearly 3 percent from 2005 to 2011.”

The CBS News (5/14, Castillo) websites add that the CSPI study also “showed that the average sodium content in 402 packaged foods only decreased 3.5 percent between 2005 and 2011.”

MyHealthNewsDaily (5/14, Rettner) reports that in an editorial accompanying the CSPI study, “Dr. Mitchell Katz of the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that government regulation of salt content may be difficult. ‘Regulating calorie size, or the maximum of a necessary nutrient, such as salt, will always raise questions of whether the government is going too far in regulating our lives,'” he noted.

Additionally, the Huffington Post (5/13) points out that the “new studies come on the heels of a report (pdf) just published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, showing that the nutrition quality of fast food has improved just 3 percent over a 14-year period.” Also covering the three JAMA Internal Medicine studies are HealthDay (5/14, Reinberg), MedPage Today (5/14, Petrochko) and Heartwire (5/14, O’Riordan).