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Thursday, November 15, 2007

'I'll have the supersalty, low-calorie pig-out portion, please.'

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2007 at 6:15 PM

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Sometimes, those "healthy" choices on the menu seem a little too good to be true. The menu says you're getting X tiny number of calories and you waddle out of the restaurant feeling quite sated, perhaps congratulating yourself for your remarkable self-restraint.

Of course it could be that the restaurant misrepresented the number of calories it actually served you. That's exactly what a recent study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found, according to the New York Times' health blog, Well:

C.S.P.I. sent several dishes served by the chain Olive Garden to a laboratory for nutritional analysis. Although the restaurant doesn’t provide calorie information for most of their foods, three of the items came from the restaurant’s Garden Fare menu, which includes calorie counts.

For two out of three dishes, the restaurant servings exceeded the calorie content promised on the menu. A dish of Linguine alla Marinara, for instance, was supposed to have just 551 calories, according to the Olive Garden Web site. But the C.S.P.I. analysis showed it contained 790 calories, or 43 percent more calories than listed on the menu. A dish of Capellini Pomodoro is listed at 644 calories on the menu, but the restaurant served up 990 calories worth, or 53 percent more. However, the portion of Shrimp Primavera was just about right. The menu promised 706 calories, and the server dished up 690 calories, a difference of just 2 percent.

Check out the full story here.

The same blog recently featured a piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association that calls for reduced use of salt because of sodium's link to high blood pressure:

Sodium has long been associated with an increased risk for high blood pressure. Notably, the World Health Organization earlier this year said the evidence linking sodium to hypertension is “conclusive.” Cutting American’s sodium intake in half ... could reduce deaths from heart disease and stroke by 23 percent. By some estimates, that could prevent 150,000 deaths every year.

But leave it to the Salt Institute to play the same role the tobacco companies assumed when smoking was linked to cancer. Or compare its reaction to the junk-food industry's response to reports a good 20 years ago that trans fats were poisonous. Reports the Times:

Yet the Salt Institute, an industry trade group, disagrees, saying there’s no evidence to support a campaign against sodium. In fact, some people are more sensitive to the deleterious effects of sodium than others. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to figure out if you’re one of them.

And evolution is just a theory, global warming is a paranoid fantasy of Al Gore, and Elvis is eating peanut butter, bacon and hummus sandwiches with Saddam Hussein in an underground bunker in Iran.

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