Wednesday 29 May 2019

Restaurant food exceeds imaginary guidelines

From The Sun...

Most kids’ meals sold in chain restaurants are too high in calories, fat or salt, a study reveals.

Researchers say the firms are fuelling the obesity crisis by making it hard to eat healthily away from home.

The study found a typical meal for six to 12-year-olds was 19% over calorie guidlinesIt comes after they analysed 39,266 meal combinations on the children’s menu at 20 leading eateries — including McDonald’s, KFC, Nando’s, Harvester, Brewers Fayre, Pizza Hut and Zizzi.

The average meal for kids aged two to five had 609 calories, 67 per cent more than the 364 official guidelines.

And a typical meal for six to 12-year-olds had 653 calories, 19 per cent more than the recommended 550.

The problem with it is that there are no 'official guidelines' on how many calories should be in an individual meal. There are guidelines for daily consumption, but it would be silly to think that the daily guidelines can be divided by three to get a 'limit' for an individual meal.

In December 2017, Public Health England created a 400-600-600 rule-of-thumb, telling people to try to stick to 400 calories for breakfast and 600 calories for lunch and dinner, but these numbers were plucked out of the air and have no basis in science. Add them together and you have a starvation diet of 1,600 calories. And at no point did PHE put forward meal guidelines for children.

So what are these researchers babbling about? Their study is here. It finds that:

The average meal for younger children (aged 2−5 years) contained 609 ±117 kcal, and for older children (6−12 years) 653 ± 136 kcal compared with guidelines of 364 and 550 kcal, respectively.

These guidelines don't exist, so where did they come from?

The authors say:

Public Health England’s guidelines for healthy and sustainable catering were assumed, and so for a single meal, 30% of daily energy requirements was referenced.[35]

Reference 35 is this report from Public Health England which doesn't mention calories once.

Later in the study they say:

In total, 66% of meals were above the 550 kcal recommended amount [28]

Reference 28 is this study. It doesn't say anything about limiting meals to 550 calories.

So the researchers have created some imaginary guidelines for children based on 30 per cent of a child's daily calorie recommendation and provided a couple of irrelevant citations to make them look sciencey. (Note that the official daily guidelines are lower than those of adults for younger children but higher than those of adults for older children - the authors focus only on the former.)

The implication is that a restaurant meal should provide less than a third of a ten year old's daily calorie intake. This is a ridiculous assumption and nicely illustrates why the government doesn't have official guidelines for individual meals.

Nevertheless, the authors come to the absurd conclusion that:

Eating in chain restaurants, in particular meal deals, does not contribute positively to the diet of children in the United Kingdom and Ireland. 

This is a patently subjective opinion so let me respond in kind. There is absolutely nothing wrong with children having 600-700 calories in a meal, especially for their lunch or dinner. Teenagers, in particular, should be aiming for this as a minimum.

This study seems to be the latest attempt to build support for Public Health England's unwanted  interference in the out-of-home eating sector and its insane calorie caps. A similar study, based on PHE's 400-600-600 nonsense was published late last year. As I said at the time...

The authors know full well that this is exactly what Public Health England is working towards, but state regulation of food portions is such an extreme policy that it requires lashings of propaganda before the public will swallow it. The calorie limits announced by PHE last December were plucked out of the air, but they are already being treated as gospel in a major medical journal. It has now been ‘revealed’ that these arbitrary guidelines are being habitually breached in restaurants. Why wouldn’t they be? They have no basis in reality and, in any case, they were only supposed to be recommendations.

Junk studies like this are a minor nuisance compared to what PHE has planned.

Oh, and by the way...

Meals from fast food restaurants contained fewer calories, less fat and less salt than full-service, sit-down ones.

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