Tag Archives: calories

Young crop.

Global food production is already being impacted by climate change, paper reports

Climate change is already impacting our crops, new research reports. Some regions are faring better than others, the team explains, but overall, it’s causing a drop in how many calories the world’s top 10 crops are producing per year.

Young crop.

Image via Pixabay.

Barley, cassava, maize, oil palm, rapeseed, ride, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane, and wheat collectively supply around 83% of all calories produced on croplands. The bad news is that these crops are expected to drop in productivity in warmer climate conditions, which are in store for the future. A new study, however, comes to show that these ill effects are already being felt — and some regions and countries are faring far worse than others.

Sweating out the calories

“There are winners and losers, and some countries that are already food insecure fare worse,” says lead author Deepak Ray of the University of Minnesota’s (UoM) Institute on the Environment.

The team drew on high-resolution global crop statistics databases at the UoM’s Institute on the Environment to track how global crop production figures have fluctuated over time. The researchers also used reported weather data to evaluate the potential impact of observed climate change on crop productivity.

Based on these figures the team estimated which geographical areas are most at risk of experiencing lower productivity and food insecurity in a warmer-climate future. This study is also relevant for our efforts to implement the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals of ending hunger and limiting the effects of climate change, the authors add.

Here are the highlights of the study:

  • Observed climate change had a significant impact on the yield of the world’s top 10 crops. This ranged from decreases between 13.4% (for oil palm) and increases of 3.5% (for soybean).
  • The overall reduction in productivity of consumable food calories for all the 10 crops is around 1% (around 35 trillion kcal/year).
  • Europe, Southern Africa, and Australia are mostly experiencing a drop in food production due to climate change; Asia, Northern, and Central America are experiencing mixed effects, while Australia is generally seeing positive effects.
  • impacts of climate change on global food production are mostly negative in Europe, Southern Africa, and Australia, generally positive in Latin America, and mixed in Asia and Northern and Central America.
  • Half of all countries battling with food insecurity today are experiencing decreases in crop production. Some affluent industrialized countries in Western Europe are also seeing declines in food production.
  • Recent climate change has increased the yields of certain crops in some areas of the upper Midwest United States.

“This is a very complex system, so a careful statistical and data science modeling component is crucial to understand the dependencies and cascading effects of small or large changes,” says co-author Snigdhansu Chatterjee of the University of Minnesota’s School of Statistics.

The Institute’s Global Landscapes Initiative has previously produced global-scale research that has been put to use by international organizations such as the U.N. and the World Bank to evaluate global food security and environmental challenges. The present findings, however, have implications for major food companies, commodity traders and the countries in which they operate, as well as for citizens worldwide, the team notes.

“The research documents how change is already happening, not just in some future time,” says Ray.

The paper “Climate change has likely already affected global food production” has been published in the journal PLOS One.

Ultra-processed foods cause weight gain, over eating, according to a new study

A preliminary study reports that eating ultra-processed leads to eating more calories and weight gain.

Instant Noodles.

Image via Pixabay.

People who eat ultra-processed foods have a higher calorie intake and gain more weight compared to those who eat a minimally-processed diet, a new study from the National Institutes of Health reports. This difference, the team explains, was seen even when participants in the ultra-processed and minimally-processed diet groups received the same number of calories and macronutrients in their food.

Processed

“Though we examined a small group, results from this tightly controlled experiment showed a clear and consistent difference between the two diets,” said Kevin D. Hall, Ph.D., an NIDDK senior investigator and the study’s lead author.

“This is the first study to demonstrate causality — that ultra-processed foods cause people to eat too many calories and gain weight.”

The study, at the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), was small-scale — it only included 20 adult volunteers. The authors report that it is the first randomized trial meant to look into the effects of ultra-processed foods as defined by the NOVA classification system. Previous observational studies, they explain, worked with large groups of people and have uncovered an association between diets with high amounts of processed food and health complications. However, these efforts had been randomized, so they can’t be used to establish a clear link between the two (people might have experienced health complications due to other factors, such as lack of access to fresh food, not necessarily from ultra-processed ones).

Under the NOVA system, foods that have ingredients predominantly found in industrial food manufacturing, such as hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, flavoring agents, and emulsifiers, are considered to be “ultra-processed”.

“Results from this tightly controlled experiment showed a clear and consistent difference between the two diets,” said Kevin D. Hall, Ph.D., an NIDDK senior investigator and the study’s lead author. “This is the first study to demonstrate causality — that ultra-processed foods cause people to eat too many calories and gain weight.”

The participants, 10 male and 10 female, were admitted to the NIH Clinical Center for one continuous month. They were placed on each diet for two weeks (in random order), the team providing them with meals consisting of either ultra-processed or minimally processed foods. An ultra-processed breakfast, for example, might consist of a bagel, cream cheese, and turkey bacon, while the unprocessed breakfast was oatmeal with bananas, walnuts, and skim milk. Meals in both courses were controlled to have the same amounts of calories, sugars, fiber, fat, and carbohydrates. Participants were allowed to eat as much as they wanted.

People on the ultra-processed diet ate about 500 calories more per day than those on the unprocessed one. They also ate faster and gained weight, whereas their counterparts lost weight. On average, participants in the ultra-processed group gained 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms) and lost an equivalent amount on the unprocessed diet. “We need to figure out what specific aspect of the ultra-processed foods affected people’s eating behavior and led them to gain weight,” Hall admits. For example, the team says that slight differences in protein levels between the ultra-processed and unprocessed diets used in the study could explain up to half of the difference in caloric intake between the two groups.

“The next step is to design similar studies with a reformulated ultra-processed diet to see if the changes can make the diet effect on calorie intake and body weight disappear,” Hall explains.

“Over time, extra calories add up, and that extra weight can lead to serious health conditions,” said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. “Research like this is an important part of understanding the role of nutrition in health and may also help people identify foods that are both nutritious and accessible — helping people stay healthy for the long term.”

While the study reinforces the benefits of unprocessed foods, researchers note that ultra-processed foods can be difficult to restrict. “We have to be mindful that it takes more time and more money to prepare less-processed foods,” Hall said. “Just telling people to eat healthier may not be effective for some people without improved access to healthy foods.”

The paper “Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake” has been published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

You burn more calories in the afternoon than in the morning

All other things equal, you consume about 10% more calories in the afternoon than in the morning — something which surprised even researchers.

“The fact that doing the same thing at one time of day burned so many more calories than doing the same thing at a different time of day surprised us,” says Kirsi-Marja Zitting of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, lead author of the paper.

A calorie is essentially a measure of energy. Our bodies get energy from food, and that energy can be measured in calories. Although it’s technically unofficial, the calorie is by far the most common measure of food energy, and is a common talking point of most diets and nutritional strategies.

If you’ve ever kept an eye on your calorie intake and consumption, then you probably know what the Resting Metabolic Rate is — essentially, it’s a measure of how many calories the body consumes without doing anything. Think of it this way: you get energy from food, and you burn some of it just by existing; it’s pretty nice.

Zitting and colleagues wanted to see how calorie consumption is affected by the time of day, so they studied seven people in a special laboratory without any clues about what time it was outside. There were no clocks, windows, phones, or Internet. Participants were given fixed hours when they had to go to bed and, to make things even more confusing, those times were adjusted four hours later each night.

“Because they were doing the equivalent of circling the globe every week, their body’s internal clock could not keep up, and so it oscillated at its own pace,” co-author Jeanne Duffy, also in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explains. “This allowed us to measure metabolic rate at all different biological times of day.”

They found that the circadian rhythm has a strong impact on the resting metabolic rate. During the biological night, when the body cools down slightly, calorie consumption was lowest — which makes a lot of sense. What was unusual, however, was that energy consumption was highest 12 hours later, during the biological afternoon — 10% more than the normal rate. The participants’ respiratory quotient, which reflects macronutrient utilization, also varies by circadian phase, and the two may be connected.

This adds to an already growing number of studies showing that our metabolic rates differ greatly — not only from person to person, but also from time to time.

“It is not only what we eat, but when we eat–and rest–that impacts how much energy we burn or store as fat,” Duffy says. “Regularity of habits such as eating and sleeping is very important to overall health.”

Next, the team will look at how appetite and the body’s response to food vary with time of day.

Journal Reference: Current Biology, Zitting et al.: “Human Resting Energy Expenditure Varies with Circadian Phase” https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(18)31334-4

Cutting calories delays ageing, new study shows

A new comprehensive study has shown that reducing caloric intake slows down metabolism. Researchers believe the findings indicate that a low-calorie diet could extend lifespan and prolong health in old age.

Via Pixabay/Divily

Previous studies on animals with short lifespans — such as worms, mice, and flies — have shown that reducing calorie intake might slow down metabolism and prolong life. However, demonstrating this effect on humans and other animals with long lifespans has proven quite difficult.

Researchers studied some of the people who participated in the multi-center trial CALERIE (Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy), sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health. Scientists observed the effects of restricting calories for 2 years on metabolism in over 200 healthy, non-fat adult participants.

“The CALERIE trial has been important in addressing the question of whether the pace of aging can be altered in humans,” says Rozalyn Anderson, who studies aging at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She leads one of two large, independent studies on calorie restriction in rhesus monkeys. “This new report provides the most robust evidence to date that everything we have learnt in other animals can be applied to ourselves.”

The latest paper, which was published on March 22nd in the journal Cell Metabolism, monitored 53 CALERIE participants recruited at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Researchers were able to track how the participants used energy with unprecedented precision thanks to state-of-the-art metabolic chambers —  small, hotel-like sealed rooms that measure oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations every 60 seconds. Researchers calculated the ratio between the two gases and then analyzed occupants’ urinary nitrogen, indicating whether the occupant is burning fat, carbohydrate or protein.

Participants, with ages between 21 and 50, were randomly separated into two groups: the 34 people in the experimental group reduced their calorie consumption by an average of 15%, while the 19 people in the control group ate as usual. Next, researchers tested the participants annually to record overall metabolism and biological markers of aging, including damage associated with oxygen free radicals released during metabolism. At the end of the trial, participants spent 24 hours in the metabolic chamber.

Researchers discovered that the people who had dieted used energy much more efficiently while sleeping than the control group. Their base metabolism had essentially slowed down. In consequence, people in the experimental group lost an average of 9 kilos individually. All other measurements showed a reduced metabolic rate and fewer signs of aging.

“The Rolls-Royce of a human longevity study would carry on for many decades to see if people do actually live longer,” says Pennington physiologist Leanne Redman, the lead author of the latest study.

Low-calorie diets have previously been shown to extend life in different species, such as the short lifespan worm Caenorhabditis elegans, and in the fly Drosophila melanogaster. Following studies also revealed that mice with restricted diets can live up to 65% longer than mice allowed to eat freely. In addition, studies on monkeys suggest longer survival and reduced signs of aging.

Redman wants to repeat the study combining moderate calorie restriction with a diet rich in antioxidants to monitor oxidative stress, or with a drug such as resveratrol, which mimics key aspects of calorie restriction.

If researchers demonstrate the causality between caloric reduction and longer lives in humans, could you stick to such a diet?

Fresh veggies.

Americans aren’t only wasting the most food — they’re also throwing out the best bits

If you live in the United States, it’s likely that the single densest concentration of nutrients near you is in the garbage bin.

Fresh veggies.

America is an incredibly paradoxical place when it comes to food. In the land of deep-fried butter and happy meals, the average diet in is bristling with calories but nutritionally equivalent to a handful of stale dirt. This is a country who loves food to the extent that everything American is as American as apple pie, then turns around and throws away between 31% and 40% of all the food they produce each year — more than anyone else in the world. That comes down to roughly 1200 calories wasted per person, per day. Which is about what you’d need to feed an average five, six year old each day.

Over-consumption and malnutrition, at the same time. Obesity, hand-in hand-with over-waste. It flies against common sense and shouldn’t be happening, but it is. To understand how, we have to take a look not only at the quantity but also the quality of what the U.S. throws away, according to a paper from the Johns Hopkins University’s Department of International Health.

“Other researchers had already tracked the amount of food that’s wasted in terms of how much it weighs, the economic value, and how many calories were in it,” said lead author Marie Spiker, a doctoral student in the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins University. “Our primary motivation was to go beyond calories and look into other nutrients to really show the magnitude of the food that we waste.”

“Even in this environment of abundance there still are nutrients that we’re not consuming enough of on average. So, we were particularly interested in looking for these nutrients that we’re not getting enough of, and seeing how much is actually ending up in the landfill.”

Protip: it’s a lot

The team worked with two sets of data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). First, they looked at the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability (LAFA) figures, which tracks waste along 213 different commodity foods, both at the retail and consumer levels, to see how much of everything gets thrown out. Then, they turned to the National Nutrient Database which records nutritional data for foodstuffs — how much calcium is in a cup of milk, the vitamin C content in an orange, stuff like that.

Armed with these two sets of data, Spiker’s team was able to get an estimate of the amount of 27 different nutrient groups contained in those 213 types of food that gets thrown out each day. And good golly.

Fridge.

Might as well chuck the whole thing at once!
Image credits Magic Madzik / Flickr.

Let’s take dietary fiber, for example. The recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber for your average 19-30 year-old woman in the U.S. is 25 grams (0.88 oz) per day. But the averaged real intake of fiber for women in this age category is only 16.1 grams (0.56 oz) daily, about two-thirds of the recommended intake. For men, the RDI of fiber is 38 grams (1.34 oz) but the real intake is only 20 grams (0.70 oz), which cuts just over half of the RDI.

So maybe there’s not enough fiber to go around? Well, yea because so much of it gets thrown away: the paper reports that wasted fiber could bump some 206.6 million women or 103.9 million men up to their recommended intake levels. To put that into perspective, there are 321.4 million people living in the whole of the U.S., according to 2015 census data. Let’s assume that this fiber would be perfectly distributed in a 1:1 ratio to the men and women in the U.S., for discussion’s sake — it could potentially satisfy the RDI needs of 155.25 million middle-aged adults, or account for almost half of the gap for everyone. It’s a mind-boggling figure.

This pattern repeats itself for all other 26 nutrients investigated including protein, calcium, potassium, and a host of vitamins.

Why should I care

The study also looked at what types of foods are most frequently wasted and by whom. While retailers and consumers waste about as much calorie-wise, consumers take the prize when it comes to nutrient content. It all comes down to perishable food: unprocessed, fresh vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and meat.

Perishable food.

Basically, all the best bits.

“[…] these foods that are perishable are also the ones that are really rich in nutrients,” according to Spiker. “When they are sitting in our kitchens, if we don’t use them, they’re the ones that tend to spoil faster than processed and packaged foods.”

The problem is that a meal thrown out isn’t just a meal missed which, although bad for you, ultimately affects only you. The problem is that the food on our plates comes from a really long and complicated supply chain — so when you throw away food, you also throw away all the work and resources that went into growing it. That means all the land, water, fertilizer, and fuel used in agriculture and transport, the energy required to keep it refrigerated in transit and in stores, it all goes in the bin.

All those resources further translate into an environmental strain with land clearing and ecosystem destruction to make room for crops, all the greenhouse gasses released during the production process, and in certain cases (such as wild fish or seafood) a depletion of stocks which don’t have time to regenerate — all wasted. And to add insult to injury, the food which reaches landfills merrily starts decomposing and releasing methane, an even more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.

Take it a step further, and this waste has a direct cost for you. There’s the time you had to spent at work to be able to afford all this food. As we’ve seen that this waste eats into your basic nutritional needs, there’s also a secondary cost it will carry in time — in the form of dietary supplements and medical costs to treat the effects of poor diet. Think far long enough and this waste adds a teeny tiny mark towards climate change and widening social inequality.

A single item doesn’t make much of a difference — but it add it up with everything you threw and will throw out during your lifetime, and it becomes significant. Compounds with what everyone else in the country wastes, and it becomes massive.

Ok, what should I do

“Know your onions” wartime poster promoting food efficiency.
Created by the Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. Bureau of Special Services in World War 2 / Public Domain.

Policy is probably the best way to solve the issue en masse, but a personal touch can also add up the same way. Spiker recommends checking what food you have at home before going out grocery shopping for more. Also, with the exception of baby food, you can pretty much ignore any sell-by date on packages. As we’ve said before, these are there as a guarantee of taste not edibility. Your best bet is to go with your instincts. We have a huge chunk of time behind us in which we’ve evolved to know what we should and shouldn’t eat. If it smells or tastes off, just don’t eat it; else, chow down.

Another way to limit waste while still eating healthily is to buy frozen veggies. After all, whatever health benefits fresh, hand-picked, slowly-massaged-to-classical-music kale has don’t matter if it spoils in the fridge and you throw it out. Buying frozen food will give you more time to eat it before it goes bad.

And finally, consider what you’re purchasing and try to be realistic — can you actually eat everything before it goes bad? Then, once you’ve actually got the food into the house make sure you’re turning them into meals — even if takeout would be the easiest choice.

In the end, the best rule of thumb would be to follow the wisdom of Andrew Burd — be stingy, and make sure you save that money by eating everything you buy.

The full paper “Wasted Food, Wasted Nutrients: Nutrient Loss from Wasted Food in the United States and Comparison to Gaps in Dietary Intake” has been published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Lembas_bread

The Fellowship of the Ring needed 675 pieces of lembas bread to reach Mordor, study finds

Lembas_bread

Legolas is delighted with lembas. 

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, a motley crew formed of humans, elves, dwarfs, and hobbits are tasked with saving Middle Earth. To reach their goal, they have to throw the One Ring into the fiery abyss of Mt. Doom but to get there they would have to walk all the way from Imraldis with lembas bread as their only source of sustenance. According to a new study published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics, the fellowship would have required hundreds of pieces of lembas.

The study was carried out by Skye Rosetti and Krisho Manaharan, both from the University of Leicester. To find out how much food the fellowship required, the pair calculated the total calorific consumption of the 92-day journey using the metabolic rates for each species.

The fellowship consisted of four hobbits (Peregrin Took, Meriadoc Brandybuck, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee), the Dúnedain ranger Aragorn, Boromir of the race of men, the Istari Gandalf, dwarrow Gimli and the elf Legolas Greenleaf. A previous study used animal analogues to determine basal metabolic rates for different species from Middle Earth, like foxes for humans, deer for elves and possums for hobbits. As such, a 34-year-old male of each species should expect the following daily calorie consumption:

  • Hobbits: 1818.61 kcal/day
  • Men: 1702.2 kcal/day
  • Elves: 1416.95 kcal/day

Though half the height of a man, hobbits burn a lot of energy. They’re always hungry, at least.

To compute the total number of calories consumed by the party, the researchers made a couple of assumption. In their ideal journey, the group doesn’t separate and Boromir is still alive and well for the whole duration of the trip. That’s because Frodo’s path beyond Imraldis is considered which means there are no skirmishes near Parth Galen. The researchers also assume Frodo isn’t captured by Orcs and Gandalf isn’t lost during the fight with Balrog of Morgoth.

With this in mind, the combined daily calorific consumption of the fellowship was determined to be 16,147.68 kcal/day

The stops the fellowship made which were used to determine the degree of exertion for the fellowship. Credit:

The stops the fellowship made which were used to determine the degree of exertion for the fellowship. Credit: Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics. 

Concerning lembas bread, we know from reliable sources that a cake would satisfy a man for an entire day, which is equal to 2638.50 kcal.  So, to support the fellowship on its journey to Mordor, the party would have had to carry a minimum of 675 pieces of lembas. Those are quite a few pieces of bread but fortunately, one lembas cake is very small and if wrapped in mallorn leaves can stay fresh for months. In other words, it’s totally plausible for the party to sustain their very long and arduous trip on lembas alone.

http://i.imgur.com/qGooeNH.gif

“Using hourly metabolic rates for the species, this is approximately 304 pieces for the hobbits, 214 for the ‘men’, 99 for Gimli and 60 for Legolas, assuming that they only eat their daily required amounts,” the researchers concluded.

 

This study answers some questions Lord of The Rings fans might have asked themselves but there are still many things we don’t know. For instance, does lembas contain gluten? Are there any side effects of eating only lembas for weeks? A follow-up would be gladly welcome. So, who wants to fund this?

The Hunger Games: Extreme calorie reduction may increase lifespan

Five days of hunger a month could significantly reduce aging and age-related medical conditions. But don’t start fasting just yet.

Fasting and science

Image in Creative Commons / via Wiki Commons

It’s one of the ‘hottest’ trends in nutrition, although it’s not exactly a new idea. Laboratory research has repeatedly shown that calorie restriction (CR) has anti-aging properties, but the lab tests were conducted on animals such as nematodes (worms) and rats — so the same might not stand for humans. Furthermore, extreme fasting can have damaging effects on the body, reducing bone and muscle density. Now, for the first time, two studies show that extreme CR likely yields good outcomes for humans.

Writing in Nature Communications, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the National Institute on Aging report that rhesus monkeys exhibited the same effects as the rats and nematodes, making it more likely for the results to translate to humans.

In the first study, researchers describe a monkey that started on a 30 percent calorie restriction diet when he was 16 years old, and is now 43, establishing a record of longevity for the species (the rough human equivalent of 130). Meanwhile, in the second study gerontologist Valter Longo at the University of Southern California (U.S.C.) reports that you don’t need to fast all the time for the CR to make its effects. “All” you need to do is repeat the hunger days a few times a month.

Previously, Longo and colleagues found only three rounds (5 days every month for three months) of alternating between a fasting-mimicking diet and a business as usual diet improved health. Results suggested improved physical condition, less body fat and blood glucose, and lower levels of proteins associated with cardiovascular diseases.

This is an improvement from the previous idea that you need to always fast, but I know quite a few people who would argue that a life extended in such a way is not really a life worth living.

Should we fast?

Rozalyn Anderson, a researcher in the Wisconsin study, does not really disagree. She doesn’t really recommend going for such a diet:

“Life is difficult enough without engaging in some bonkers diet,” she says. “We really study this as a paradigm to understand aging. We’re not recommending people do it.”

Indeed, this approach could turn out to be a one-size-fits-all treatment when it comes to age-related conditions, as calorie restriction “delays the aging and vulnerability. Instead of going after diseases one at a time, you go after the underlying vulnerability and tackle them all at once.”

In fact, the second study, which recruited human subjects, had a 25 percent dropout rate because it was so difficult to maintain. People ate a plant-only diet which included vegetable soups, energy bars, energy drinks and a chip snack as well as mineral and vitamin supplements. It also featured nutrients designed to manipulate the expression of genes involved in aging-related processes. The health benefits included decreased body mass and better levels of glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol, and lasted for up to three months, even after subjects returned to their regular diet. Lean muscle mass and density remained unchanged, which is also encouraging.

However, you really shouldn’t start extreme fasting. We really recommend against it. As Anderson says, this is a matter of scientific research — not some DIY diets.

Red Lobster: “Create Your Own Combination” meal (2,710 calories). Adding a Lobsterita, the chain’s 890-calorie margarita, brings the total to 3,600 calories.

The most unhealthy, calorie ridden, sodium rich restaurant meals in America

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health advocacy group based in Washington, DC, just released its Xtreme Eating Awards. Hint: it’s not that kind of award you want to win or even get mentioned. CSPI officials ranked the highest calorie, fat-rich meals served in restaurants across the country. This year, they say, they’ve been completely blown away by what they found on the table served to Americans.

“When we first started these studies [in 2007], we were shocked to see meals with 1,000 calories, but that has become the norm,” Paige Einstein, CSPI’s Project Coordinator and a registered dietitian said.

 Red Lobster: “Create Your Own Combination” meal (2,710 calories). Adding a Lobsterita, the chain’s 890-calorie margarita, brings the total to 3,600 calories.

Red Lobster: “Create Your Own Combination” meal (2,710 calories). Adding a Lobsterita, the chain’s 890-calorie margarita, brings the total to 3,600 calories.

CSPI surveyed the menus of more than 200 restaurant chains and ranked the “unholiest” of them. Surprisingly, KFC doesn’t even make the list. Instead, you’ll find chains like The Cheesecake Factory, Outback Steakhouse, and Red Lobster. The latter tops the most calorie punch if you choose Red Lobster’s “Create Your Own Combination” in the following combo: the Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp, Walt’s Favorite Shrimp, and Shrimp Linguine Alfredo to go with the Caesar salad, French fries, and one Cheddar Bay Biscuit. Together the meal packs 2,710 calories or more than you need for a whole day. The real kicker comes if you decide to order the 24-ounce Lobsterita (the restaurant’s margarita) to go along with your shrimp. In total, the meal would hit 3,600 calories.

Ranking 2nd of the worse is Steak ‘n’ Shake’s 7×7 Steakburger ‘n Fries with a chocolate fudge brownie milkshake (2,530 calories), followed by Dickey’s Barbecue Pit’s 3 Meat Plate (2,500 calories). Here are some (dis)honorable mentions found by Patch:

  • IHOP’s Chorizo Fiesta Omelette: The omelette alone has 1,300 calories, but it comes with three buttermilk pancakes (or hash browns, toast or fruit). That brings the total to 1,9900 calories and two days’ worth of saturated fat.
  • The Herb Roasted Prime Rib dinner is a 16 oz. prime rib alone, containing 1,400 calories. If you got a dressed baked potato and classic blue cheese wedge salad, along with bread, you’d hit 2,400 calories, 71 grams of fat, and 3,560 mg of sodium.
  • The Louisiana Chicken Pasta at the Cheesecake Factory weighs 1½ pounds, comes topped with four slices of heavily breaded chicken. Add the New Orleans sauce (butter and heavy cream), and your plate is up to 2,370 calories.
  • The Pick & Choose menu at Uno Pizzeria & Grill lets diners choose from five salads, four pastas, and three pizzas. CSPI started with the Baked Ziti & Sausage Pasta. That’s 720 calories (a third of a day’s worth), which is high-but-reasonable… for an entire meal. They added a Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza. Add ’em up and you get 2,190 calories, 49 grams of saturated fat (2½ days’ worth), 5,420 mg of sodium (a 3½-day supply), and white flour galore. As CSPI said, it’s the equivalent of eating three Pizza Hut Pepperoni Lover’s Personal Pan Pizzas.

The full list can be found here.

“This nutritional shipwreck from Red Lobster exemplifies the kind of gargantuan restaurant meal that promotes obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases,” said CSPI registered dietitian Paige Einstein in an announcement. “If this meal were unusual, that would be one thing, but America’s chain restaurants are serving up 2,000-calorie breakfasts, 2,000-calorie lunches, 2,000-calorie dinners, and 2,000-calorie desserts left and right. Abnormal is the new normal.”

Starting December this year, restaurants will be mandated by the Food and Drug Administration to list calories for each item on their menus. Until then, if you’re not sure what you’re ordering, the SPI suggests you keep clear of hefty-looking meals and order from the “lighter menus”.