Three Oreo Cookies a Day

That’s all it takes to make us fat. From Timothy Taylor at the Conversable Economist:

The rise in American rates of obesity can be traced back to what seems like a fairly small rise in daily calories consumed, I learned this lesson from an article on the causes of obesity about 10 years back in my own Journal of Economic Perspectives. In “Why Have Americans Become More Obese?” David M. Cutler, Edward L. Glaeser and Jesse M. Shapiro wrote that the “10- to 12-pound increase in median weight we observe in the past two decades requires a net caloric imbalance of about 100 to 150 calories per day. These calorie numbers are strikingly small. One hundred and fifty calories per day is three Oreo cookies or one can of Pepsi. It is about a mile and a half of walking.”

Comments (11)

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  1. Jeff says:

    But I like Oreo cookies!

  2. Mulligan says:

    Ceteris Paribus. That’s why I love economists, they cheat :)

  3. Devon Herrick says:

    Ten pounds of additional weight over a decade worked out to about 3,500 additional calories per year that have been stored as fat. However, I’m not convinced a can of Coke or a few cookies necessarily equates to a pound of additional weight each year – although it could. There are many other variables . For instance, the recent long-term study of the Mediterranean diet suggested you could eat all the nuts you wanted between meals. Moreover, other research has found high protein diets pack on more muscle mass than diets high in carbohydrates.
    I wonder if much of the increase isn’t calorie-dense, highly-processed carbohydrates and pre-packaged foods. I’m not a critic of modern life; just an observer that we have access to foods that are higher in calories per unity of weight than what our great grandmothers cooked back 100 years ago. People talk about how much better homemade foods were back when cooking was common. But a food conglomerate today has all manner of ingredients at their disposal to make the eating experience as good as possible – even if that means putting many different types of additives that grandma didn’t have access to. Grandma was trying to feed her family at a cost her husband could afford. By contrast, food companies are trying to make food more convenient, and better tasting than their competitiors.

  4. Peterson says:

    One might be more inclined to eat said cookies after burning several calories jogging, or playing basketball. The REASON the can of coke might get consumed could be to quinch someone thirst after intense physical activity (obviously not the best way to hydrate).

  5. John Kumar says:

    Diet, no doubt, is key here. It is the quality, type, of calories that are important to keep note of. Plus, maintaining an active life style along with a decent diet will be important.

  6. Scott Abela says:

    Diet is only one part of a healthy lifestyle. While major food manufacturers have created wholly unhealthy foods, it is the person who is ultimately responsible. One reason obestity is so prevalent is because of the American way. We work, work, work, and thus devote less time and energy to being healthy, unlike other countries.

  7. Christian Boozer says:

    I remember reading the link that Dr. Goodman posted a few days ago that would give some easy clues to this phenomena.

    The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

  8. Anabelle says:

    Obesity is a major growing issue within Americans, and it astonishes me just as much to realize how much damage small quantities of unhealthy food can do. The following statement from Cutler’s work caught my eye “…the switch from individual to mass preparation lowered the time price of food consumption
    and led to increased quantity and variety of foods consumed.” This makes a lot of sense. Mass preparation includes frozen foods, artificially flavored meals, microwavable food, among other. These have indeed diminshed the amount of time that people spend in the kitchen these days cooking their own meals, and as a result now they choose to eat more and a more wide variety of already prepared meals. This is bound to increase obesity. Calories intake is such an important factor in keeping a healthy diet. If only people would stay as active and exercise just as much, if not more, as all the food they eat, I’m sure this situation wouldn’t be as concerning.

  9. Charles Burde says:

    If you choose to be lazy and eat cookies sitting on your sofa watching tv or drinking a can of soda, you should expect nothing good from it. If you choose to walk, not even run, a mile and a half, then expect great outcomes! You reap what you sow. It’s as simple as that.

  10. Dr. James Franco says:

    Even in LA, which one might assume is a rather fit city, we have this problem.

    Even with our pets we have this problem!

    http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/02/26/animal-obesity-a-growing-problem-in-the-us/

  11. H. James Prince says:

    Reminds me of a Queen song: “Fat Bottomed Girls”

    In all seriousness, I feel that this epidemic is a cultural one. We have healthy choices available to us, but they are expensive or inconvenient. We could cook our meals at home, but that takes time. We could choose a salad, but cheeseburgers are easier to eat while driving.