Why We Eat Far More Calories than We Think

A new study shows that we greatly underestimate how many calories we consume.



As I discuss in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, it is critically important to avoid diets and foods, and other lifestyle choices, known to increase the risk of cancer.  As I also discuss in my book, the human body was not designed for the supra-normal calorie content of the typical “western diet.”  The enormous number of calories packed into the highly processed foods that most people favor, when combined with our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, has led to an epidemic of obesity and obesity-related diseases, including cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, gallstones, liver disease, and accelerated arthritis, among other preventable serious illnesses.  Another point that I make in my book, and in discussions with my patients, is that almost all of us greatly underestimate the number of calories that we are consuming while, at the same time, we tend to overestimate the number of calories that we are burning through physical activity.

A newly published public health study, which appears in the current issue of the British Medical Journal, provides compelling data regarding our predisposition towards underestimating just how many calories we consume on a daily basis.

In this study, 1,877 adults, 1,178 adolescents, and 330 school-age children were asked to estimate the approximate number of calories that they were consuming while eating at fast food restaurants.  Specifically, these surveys were performed at McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s, KFC, and Dunkin’ Donuts.

The actual calories count, on average, for each meal was 836 calories for adults, 756 calories for adolescents, and 733 calories for children.  When asked to estimate the numbers of the calories they had just consumed, the adults underestimated their caloric intake by an average of 175 calories, the adolescents by 259 calories, and the school-age children by 175 calories.  Perhaps more important was the observation that the degree of underestimation of calorie content of fast-food meals actually increased with increasing actual meal calorie counts.  That is to say, the more excessive calories that people consumed at these fast-food restaurants, the more they underestimated their actual caloric intake.  Another interesting finding of this public health study was that adults and teens who ate at Subway underestimated the calorie counts of their meals to a greater degree (20 and 25 percent, respectively) than people who ate at McDonald’s, suggesting an inaccurate perception that Subway meals contained fewer calories (and were, therefore, healthier) than McDonalds meals.

As I discuss in my book, excess body weight has been linked to 7 to 10% of all cancer cases, as well as many other life-threatening obesity-related illnesses.  Therefore, instead of underestimating the calorie content of our diets and overestimating how physically active we are, we would be much better off by sharply reducing the calories we consume and increasing our physical activity levels.  Take an important first step towards living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle now by reading A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.com Top 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.


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Additional Links for Robert A. Wascher, MD, FACS

Profile of Dr. Wascher by Oncology Times

Bio of Dr. Wascher at Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Dr. Wascher Discusses Predictions of Decreased Cancer Risk on azfamily.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Environmental Risk Factors for Breast Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Answers Questions About Cancer on talkabouthealth.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Cancer Prevention Strategies on LIVESTRONG

Dr. Wascher Discusses Cancer Prevention on Newsmax

Dr. Wascher Answers Questions About Cancer Risk & Cancer Prevention on The Doctors Radio Show

Dr. Wascher Discusses Lymphedema After Breast Surgery on cancerlynx.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Hormone Replacement Therapy & Breast Cancer Risk on cancerlynx.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Chronic Pain After Mastectomy for Breast Cancer on cancerlynx.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy for Cancer on cancersupportivecare.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Role of Exercise in Cancer Prevention on Open Salon

Dr. Wascher Discusses Aspirin as a Potential Preventive Agent for Pancreatic Cancer on eHealth Forum

Dr. Wascher Discusses Obesity & Cancer Risk on eHealth Forum

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Role of Radiation Therapy in the Treatment of Breast Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Treatment of Stomach Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Management of Metastatic Cancer of the Liver on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses Obesity & Cancer Risk on hopenavigators.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Hormone Replacement Therapy & Breast Cancer Risk on interactmd.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Thyroid Cancer on health2fit.com


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According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.

Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 3.1 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


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