Nutrition News: Coke-Funded Group’s Demise, Bite Counting and Portion Reduction

Coke-funded group goes bust. Plus: Counting bites and reducing portions could cut calories and curb obesity.
Coke-funded obesity group goes belly-up

That didn’t take long. The Global Energy Balance Network, a nonprofit organization that played down the role of calories from food and beverages in the obesity epidemic  (and which, a New York Times expose revealed in August, was funded by Coca-Cola), announced last week that it would shutter immediately “due to resource limitations.” In November, the University of Colorado, where the organization’s leader is a professor, said it would return a $1 million donation from Coca-Cola, while the University of South Carolina, where another of the group’s leaders is on the faculty, says it plans to keep a $500,000 donation from the beverage giant. The announcement came only days after Coke’s chief science and health officer, Rhona S. Applebaum, who helped orchestrate the Global Energy Balance Network’s establishment, announced her retirement.

In weight-loss efforts, every bite counts

Worried about how you’re going to keep off the holiday pounds? You might try bite counting. A recent study suggests that, by heeding every bite of food or gulp of drink, we can maintain or even lose weight. The study, led by Brigham Young University associate professor of health sciences Josh West, found that when people first established their average daily bites of food or swallows of beverage (except water) and then sought to reduce their daily bites by 20 or 30 percent, they lost about 3.5 pounds in the first month. Of course, basic nutrition is also important, West told The New York Times, recommending that bite counters should focus on consuming mostly fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. “Fewer bites won’t help you lose weight,” he told the Times, “if every one of those bites is dessert.”

To combat obesity, think small
As for fighting obesity on a broader scale, a new study published in the BMJ indicates that shrinking large food portions, packaging and tableware could reduce the average daily calorie consumption in the U.S. by 22 to 29 percent (and 12 to 16 percent in the U.K.). The study, led by University of Cambridge psychologist Theresa Marteau, Ph.D., suggests that people consistently eat and drink more when presented with larger portions, packages or tableware. "The causes of obesity are complex, but overconsumption of food and sugary drinks is a critical proximal determinant, driven in part by large portion sizes," Marteau and her colleagues wrote. "The importance of developing interventions and policies to reduce the size, availability, and appeal of large portions is underscored by the compelling evidence that people eat and drink more from larger portions." So maybe only a small plate of holiday cookies?

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