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Your favorite restaurant offers more calories than fast food: study


(CNN) – Fast food is often blamed for excess calories, but new research has determined that its favorite restaurant chain is serving dishes with an even greater calorie surplus, worsening the global obesity epidemic.

In both formal restaurants and fast food restaurants, many servings are often served, loaded with sugars and fats, according to two studies that were published on Wednesday, December 12, at British Medical Bulletin (BMJ, for its acronym in English).

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Contrary to what people believe, the study indicates that the problem (which according to experts promotes obesity, increases rates of diabetes, heart disease and other serious conditions) is not limited to the United States.

Although poor nutritional content of fast food is well documented, there is less research on the energy content of foods served in "full-service" restaurants.

A British study looked at the caloric content of 13,500 dishes from 27 British chain restaurants, of which 21 are full service restaurants and the rest are fast food. In a US study, the calories from the most popular dishes from 116 restaurants in five countries (Brazil, China, Finland, Ghana and India) were measured and compared to those in the United States.

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The researchers found that the calorie content of the most popular dishes in restaurants in the UK and in other countries is excessive and few meet public health recommendations. In the global study, only in China is "considerably less energy than in restaurants in the United States."

It was concluded that fast food contains an average of 33% fewer calories than traditional restaurant fare.

The Secretary of Health of the United Kingdom, Health of England, recommends that that mid-afternoon and evening meals do not exceed 600 calories (which are also measured as kcal). But almost none of the restaurants studied follow the recommendations.

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"We found that the amount of calories in the average restaurant dishes is greater than the number of calories in fast food dishes," said Eric Robinson, a senior professor of psychology at the University of Liverpool who led the British study. "Many people would expect there to be more calories in fast food, but our findings contradict that."

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The average main course of a fast food chain in the UK contains 751 calories, compared to the average of 1,033 calories in the main course of a formal restaurant. Only 11% of the 21 restaurants in the formal restaurants studied (including Pizza Express, Zizzi and Wagamama) meet the recommended limit of 600 calories, although for fast food restaurants the rate is 17%.

These restaurants did not respond to our requests for comments.

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The fastest UK fast food restaurant was the KFC, averaging 987 calories per dish, but its result was better than more than half of the formal restaurants. On the other hand, a medium dish in the Burger King (711 calories) contains fewer calories than the dishes of all the traditional restaurants studied.

Those with the worst results were Hungry Horse, whose average dish contains 1,358 calories, followed by Sizzling Pubs (1,269 calories) and Flaming Grill Pubs (1,232 calories).

Mizzells and Butlers, the parent company of Sizzling Pubs, said in a statement: "We share nutrition information online so customers have access to it and we are very aware of our role in helping our clients make informed decisions about what they eat. when they visit us.

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"We also regularly collaborate with our suppliers to find ways to reduce the concentration of sugar in our dishes and we are committed to the Public Health England Sugar Reduction program."

The other restaurants did not respond to our requests for comments.

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In the international study, which did not identify specific restaurants, an average of 809 calories was found in major fast food chain courses and 1,317 calories in chain restaurants. Only Chinese restaurants served fewer calories than Americans: 1,045 calories in formal restaurants, versus 1,362 in American dining rooms; 561 calories in Chinese fast food restaurants versus 969 in Americans. The tendency of the dishes in India was to contain more calories; restaurants in other countries had similar results to those in the United States.

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Once again, the recommendation of the 600 calories in the minority of the dishes was respected; 94% of full service restaurant dishes and 72% of fast food dishes have exceeded the limit.

Robinson said that although in the UK there is a debate over whether restaurants should be forced to post their calorie content, only 9% of the dishes in their research respect the maximum calorie.

"So even if you want to know the calories on the menu, you do not have many options left," he explained. "Restaurants have to serve fewer calories, there are many dishes that contain many calories, either by portion size, by ingredients or by the method of preparation."

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"The main problem is that we live in an eating environment that encourages and makes people eat more calories than they need," he said. "If the government really wants to try to reduce obesity and the number of people dying young because of poor diet and obesity, then the food environment is something that needs to be addressed and corrected."

Susan Roberts, lead scientist at the Jean Mayer Center for Nutrition Research and Aging at the US Department of Agriculture at Tufts University, is co-author of the international study. "So far, fast food has been consistently criticized, but in this study, fast food is the good thing about the movie," he explained. "It's still bad, but it has 33% fewer calories than [los platillos de] the standard restaurants ".

You can take measures like reducing the portion sizes or even implementing proportional prices on the dishes, Roberts said. In other words, people would have to pay for the portion they ordered, not according to the one size fits all approach.

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"I think most of us would love to come to a restaurant and ask for the size we really want, but that would mean that restaurants would have to acknowledge that they are part of the problem, which I think they will deny," added Roberts.

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The authors of both reports said a firm conclusion can not be reached because both were observational. However, they warned that their findings may not fully reflect reality because they did not take into account drinks, snacks, desserts or garnishes.

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Caroline Cerny, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 British charities and groups, noted that "eating excess calories regularly causes weight gain over time."

"Nowadays, children are growing up in an obesogenic environment and it is becoming increasingly difficult for families to make healthy decisions, which is why we welcome government proposals on the implementation of mandatory labels detailing the content We also need the entire food industry, including restaurants, to take on the responsibility of helping to make food healthier by reducing calories and sugars. the goals of government. "

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Tam Fry, chair of the UK National Obesity Forum, praised the results but noted that in his opinion the 600-calorie recommendation, Public Health England, is "unrealistic."

"We got used to eating a lot more now, so I think a more realistic maximum would be about 800 calories," he explained. "The restaurant industry has to correct its mistakes, but I'm afraid it will not do so voluntarily because it feels like it's going to lose customers, so there must be some kind of regulation that forces them into the waist, otherwise they'll expose them and embarrass them."

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