Some Food Labels Could Be Overestimating Calorie Counts 


If you’re a renegade and still consuming great handfuls of almonds despite the fact that you are personally murdering California, you might want to know that the calorie counts could be off, and in fact you’re consuming fewer calories than you thought. (Almond milk is still gross, though.)

The New York Times reports that scientists are increasingly questioning the existing system of calculating calorie counts for food packaging. (With the absolutely perfect headline: “On Food Labels, Calorie Miscounts.”) Now, don’t get too excited—the labels on junk food are probably largely correct, especially if they’re heavy on the processed carbs. (Mmmm, processed carbs.) But, according to Geoffrey Livesey, head of a British nutrition consulting company, “The amount of calories a person gets from protein and fiber are overstated.” You burn some calories digesting them, and also, not everything in a nut, for instance, even gets digested. Consequently, labels could be overshooting the mark by as much as 25 percent.

Livesey himself has drawn up another method for arriving at calorie counts. But instituting it would likely be a complete pain in the ass. And some are worried a big revamp would just confuse people:

“People ask me, ‘if we know what is wrong, why hasn’t it been changed?’ ” said Rachel Carmody, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Francisco. “Because the old system is in place in most developed countries, and it would be a massive administrative and political undertaking to coordinate changes.”
“What you do not want to do is cause a crisis of confidence for consumers,” she added. “Paying attention to the food label is far better than not paying attention to the food label, even if the label is not precise.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat another piece of toast slathered in walnut butter, even though that’s exactly what scientists are worried will happen if they make too big a fuss over these findings.

Photo via AP Images.

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