Oversized meals have been shown to be a factor in obesity

January 29, 2019

Restaurants frequently serve oversized meals, not only in the United States but also in many other countries, according to a study conducted by an international team of researchers and supported by FAPESP - São Paulo Research Foundation.

Published in the British Medical Journal, the study weighed and measured the energy content of meals served by restaurants in Brazil, China, Finland, Ghana and India.

The results showed that 94% of the most popular main dishes served in sit-down restaurants and 72% of those purchased over the counter from fast food outlets contained more than 600 kilocalories (kcal), the benchmark recently recommended by the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) to help reduce the global obesity epidemic.

The researchers found a significant correlation between meal weight and energy content. They concluded that some popular meals were both far larger and more caloric than necessary.

Examples include Brazil's traditional rice, beans, chicken, cassava and salad with a bread roll (841 g and 1,656 kcal); Ghana's classic fufu, goat and soup (1,105 g and 1,151 kcal); and India's popular mutton biryani (1,012 g and 1,463 kcal).

"Obesity is a world health problem caused by several factors, such as sedentary living, processed food and sugar intake, and overeating. Many people may confuse food craving with hunger. This study shows that any strategy to combat obesity should also consider these excesses," said Vivian Suen, a professor in the Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of São Paulo's Ribeirão Preto Medical School (FMRP-USP), who is a coauthor of the article.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers obesity a global epidemic and a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and diabetes, among other diseases. It estimates that 1.9 billion adults are overweight and 600 million are obese worldwide.

According to the study, the selected restaurant and fast food meals supplied between 70% and 120% of the daily energy required by a sedentary woman - approximately 2,000 kcal - except in China, where the energy content of the most popular meals was significantly lower.

"The study did not take into account the mode of preparation or the nutritional composition of the meals analyzed. The fact is that many people who patronize these restaurants are overeating," Suen said.

The researchers measured the energy content of a representative sample of 223 popular meals purchased from 111 randomly selected sit-down restaurants and fast food outlets located in the following five cities: Ribeirão Preto (Brazil), Beijing (China), Kuopio (Finland), Accra (Ghana) and Bangalore (India).

They compared these findings with data from restaurants in Boston (USA) extracted from previous studies by Tufts University. The restaurants and fast food outlets were located within an area of 25 square kilometers around each participating research center.

"The findings refute two widely held ideas. We're not just eating the wrong foods but also overeating, and in terms of calories, a meal considered healthy may often increase the organism's energy balance and hence add more weight than a fast food meal," Suen said.

The results showed that the energy content of a fast food meals was lower on average (809 kcal) than that of a sit-down restaurant meal (1,317 kcal). However, the study was far from being a defense of fast food outlets.

"It can be taken as a warning that while we're focusing on fast food and campaigns to encourage healthy eating, all of which is positive and necessary, we're overlooking important factors such as the sheer amount of food we eat, which can also have a major impact on global obesity," Suen said.

Compensation

Oversized portions also have an effect on the so-called compensation mechanism, Suen explained.

"When nonobese people have a large midday meal, they normally feel less hungry in the evening and eat less for dinner, for example," she said. "However, obese people appear not to have this perception, as has been found in several studies by the research group at Tufts University. Therefore, this regulation in terms of eating less in the next meal doesn't happen in obese individuals."

Another problem with obesity is the organism's resistance to weight loss.

"There are countless diets - low carb, high protein, low fat, and so on - but which is best for weight loss? No one truly knows. What matters in the long term is total energy content in terms of calories.

Food quality is also important, of course. Eating low-quality carbohydrates such as saturated fat or large amounts of sugar contributes to diseases associated with excessive intake of these products. Weight gain is associated with excessive calorie intake," Suen said.
-end-
About São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public institution with the mission of supporting scientific research in all fields of knowledge by awarding scholarships, fellowships and grants to investigators linked with higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is aware that the very best research can only be done by working with the best researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding agencies, higher education, private companies, and research organizations in other countries known for the quality of their research and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to further develop their international collaboration. You can learn more about FAPESP at http://www.fapesp.br/en and visit FAPESP news agency at http://www.agencia.fapesp.br/en to keep updated with the latest scientific breakthroughs FAPESP helps achieve through its many programs, awards and research centers. You may also subscribe to FAPESP news agency at http://agencia.fapesp.br/subscribe.

Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.