When it comes to weight gain, is one food-like substance worse than another?  Yes, say Harvard University researchers, and the biggest offenders are potato chips!  Whaddayaknow–worse than sodas, worse than fries, worse than candy?  Yup, chips were more than four times more fattening than sweets or desserts.  Dang!  I’d say, “Who knew,” but isn’t it kind of obvious?

The study (actually three studies combined) looked at more than 120,000 people over a twenty year period, analyzing their dietary and lifestyle habits.  The subjects were all health professionals and not obese at the start.  Their weight was measured every four years, and they detailed their diet on questionnaires.  On average, participants gained nearly 17 pounds over the 20-year period.  For each four-year period, food choices contributed nearly 4 pounds, while exercise–for those who did it–cut less than 2 pounds.

This is how foods broke down into the fattening quotient (pounds gained/4 years):

  • Potato Chips — 1.69
  • French Fries — 1.28
  • Candy — 0.41
  • Alcohol (drinks) — 0.41
  • Watching hour of TV a day — 0.31
  • Recently quitting smoking, 5-pound increase
  • People who slept more or less than six to eight hours a night gained more weight.

The researchers conclude that diet is more important than exercise when it comes to gaining or losing weight.  Although I definitely agree with this statement in context of today’s western society, I wouldn’t say that’s a physiological fact, thermodynamically speaking.  Today’s foods may just be harder to burn, but I don’t know that it is true for all foods (and can’t one, technically, get fat from an excess of any food?).  Okay, different subject, I know, but I will agree that our current obesity epidemic ain’t from eatin’ too many carrots.

This is a decent study, but I would say we should put things into perspective.  Many people believe that as long as they work out, they should be able to eat whatever they want…within reason.  Problem is, people grossly underestimate how many calories they are eating at any given time.  A great piece came out in Scientific American last year discussing a study which showed most people, oddly, miscalculate total calories when high-calorie items are accompanied by ‘healthy’ side dishes.  Subjects overwhelmingly assigned less calories to plates with cheeseburgers and celery, than they did to cheeseburgers alone.  Doh!  Think that might happen regularly in real life?

Listen, crap is crap is crap is crap.  Chips are crap, period.  Eat them more than a few times a year (seriously) and expect fatness.  Same for sodas, canned ravioli, frozen tater tots and doughnuts–sorry to break-up the party, but…

Do we really need a study to tell us chips and fries are not Jenny Craig material?  I wish not, but sadly…we do.  So now you know.  Do with it what you will.

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