You Couldn’t Make It Up … But They Do!!


Having just posted a somewhat critical commentary on a recent, much-headlined, study looking at the effect of ‘ultra-processed’ food on cancer risk that was based on what folk said they ate, who should come galloping into the fray this morning but the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

They’ve analysed a National Diet and Nutrition survey and, surprise surprise, found that the adults surveyed (4,500 of them) said they ate 50% fewer calories than they were actually tucking away!

So much for relying on people telling the truth!!

How do they know?

Well, they persuaded 200 punters to drink doubly labelled water as part of their diet (the water is made of chemical variants of hydrogen and oxygen, deuterium and oxygen-18) and pee the truth into a bottle (from the proportions of deuterium and 18O  in urine you can work out calorie consumption).

The upshot of all this is that, whilst a rough average figure for desirable calorie intake is 2,500 for a man and 2,000 for a woman, the 4,500 were eating the equivalent of an extra Big Mac a day, with men consuming 3,119 calories rather than the 2,065 they claimed. Women consumed 2,393 calories instead of 1,570.

Actually, this didn’t come as a great surprise to the ONS guys because they’d spotted that 1 in 3 (34%) of the 4,500 claimed a calorie consumption figure that wouldn’t keep them alive! And, guess what, overweight people and men (of course) are most likely to tell dietary fibs.

Oh dear, I told the French folk in Please … Not Another Helping they shouldn’t believe a word people said. Of course, they will be quick to point out that the ONS is a British outfit reporting on Brits who are notorious cads and bounders. That’s OK then: we can confidently believe what the French tell us about their eating habits — just as we accept that they are the best lovers and have the most sex.