Spot the Block of Lies


Bhargavi Pochi

Sophomore Amaya Mootry is taking a closer look at calorie counts after finding out how they’re calculated.

Olivia Pelaez, Staff Writer

People who are trying to lose weight or live a healthy lifestyle often organize a diet based on the amount of calories they consume daily, but few know how those calories are even calculated before they’re placed on the nutrition label block. Companies rarely test their foods to find accurate measures of their calorie contents, but rather use an equation that was set as a standard in the late 1800s called the Atwater method. Although this system isn’t perfect, it is one of the best ways of determining the amount of calories in certain foods.

One study found that there is a large disparity between the caloric value that is ingested from nuts and the amount stated on the label. It found that since nuts are hard to digest, they waste a lot of calories in the process. For example, the calorie count on the nutrition label of almonds is 160 but in reality only 120 calories are absorbed by the body. Disparities such as this one occur with various foods, giving consumers an inaccurate idea of how many calories they are taking in.

“They should update their forms of testing since our technology has improved enough that we can test things in other ways. Some people actually need to watch calories for health purpose,s so this deceit is doing no one good except for the company,” junior Mikaela Mera said.

The true way to find the caloric value of food is through a device called a bomb calorimeter, which burns a food item in a closed space and finds how many calories it contains based on the temperature increase of the water inside the machine that gets heated by the food. This provides a more accurate reading of how many calories are in the food item and is the method of choice for scientists.

Some might call out the Atwater method for it’s inaccuracy. However, the alternative can prove to be worse and excessively costly. Although the bomb calorimeter can be an integral piece for improving scientific research, it comes with a large price tag that is not practical for several food companies. Problems also arise with this method because it finds the total number of calories in the food but doesn’t take into account the calories that the body can not digest and therefore becomes waste.

Consumers should be aware that accuracy can’t always be obtained and they should learn to not always trust the information companies put on the packaging. They should be more informed buyers, and if they truly want to base their diets or lifestyle off of calorie consumption, research should be conducted to allow them to understand as much as they can and make more informed decisions.