Single-Serving Food Leads to Overeating, Wall Street Journal reports
The Wall Street Journal yesterday examined the "increasing popularity of individual-sized" foods, which are leading people to eat more. The Journal reports that single-sized food packs -- including Twinkies, Big Gulps, and recently introduced products such as frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches -- have caused patients to "los[e] control of how much they eat -- and how much they feed their children." Lisa Young, a professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University, said, "Research clearly shows people eat more when they're presented with larger portion sizes. Even if they don't finish it, they will eat more." While the food industry calls such individual servings "portion control," the portion sizes are increasing because people "feel they are getting a good value," Lois Coleman, a Cincinnati marketing consultant, said. In addition to larger sizes, single-serve foods rarely are low-fat because such products have not done well on the market (Nelson, Wall Street Journal, 7/23).
The Wall Street Journal yesterday also examined how health experts classify overweight Americans. The following is a summary of the articles:
- "Government's Standard Lumps Hollywood Hunks, Athletes Together With Truly Obese": The "body mass index," a measurement used by the CDC that combines an individual's height and weight to determine if that person is overweight, "doesn't distinguish between muscle and fat" and is consequently a poor indicator of obesity, the Journal reports. According to Steven Heymsfield, deputy director of the Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, "Using BMI puts a lot of faith between weight and health risk," and as a result, 5% to 10% of people identified as overweight or obese by BMI calculations could be misclassified. In addition, the Journal notes that the CDC based its most recent nationwide obesity statistics on a survey of 1,446 people conducted over seven months in 1999 -- a survey that the CDC says is "too small to be conclusive" (McKay, Wall Street Journal, 7/23).
- "Being Heavy and Healthy": Being overweight, even to the point of obesity, may not be as unhealthy as not getting enough exercise, the Journal reports. In a study that examined the BMI and fitness level of 22,000 men over eight years, normal-weight individuals who did not exercise were almost twice a likely to die as individuals who did exercise, even if they were overweight and obese. While the "healthiest option is to be fit and trim," people should "focus on feeling better rather than looking thinner," the Journal reports (Helliker, Wall Street Journal, 7/23).