Saturday, September 11, 2010

Freaky Eaters

Earlier this week, I was introduced to a new television program entitled "Freaky Eaters" on the TLC network. This show documents people with some very unusual food addictions. As a registered dietitian (RD), this show naturally intrigued me. I saw a brief snippet of the show, in which the gentleman featured in the episode claimed that he lived off a diet of 4 cheeseburgers a day. Everyday. This lead me to question "What kind of nutrient intake would one receive from solely eating 4 cheeseburgers a day?".

To explore this more thoroughly, I did a brief nutrient analysis. USDA has a great resource for anyone to track their nutrient intake. Using this program, I yielded results for just what a 4 cheeseburger a day diet entails.

First, I analyzed how this diet measured up with MyPyramid recommendations based upon eat food group. Below are the results (Intake denotes what is provided by the cheeseburger diet. Recommendations denote what is recommended by MyPyramid):

Milk Intake 1.1 cup equivalent
Milk Recommendation 3 cup equivalent

Meat and Beans Intake 4.3 oz equivalent
Meat and Beans Recommendation 6 oz equivalent

Vegetables Intake 1 cup equivalent
Vegetables Recommendation 3 cup equivalent

Fruits Intake 0 cup equivalent
Fruits Recommendation 2 cup equivalent

Grains Intake 10.5 oz equivalent
Grains Recommendation 7 oz equivalent

Or, in percentages, for those who like numbers:
Pyramid Categories Percent Recommendation
Milk 37%
Meat and Beans 72%
Vegetables 33%
Fruits 0%
Grains 150%

I then explored the nutrient values for the diet. This chart denotes the actual intake based upon recommended intake.

Nutrient Your Intake Recommendation
Food Energy/Total Calories (kcals) 1402 2294
Protein (gm) 72 46
Carbohydrate (gm) 142 130
Total Fiber (gm) 7 25
Total Fat (gm) 59.3 31.2 - 54.5
Saturated Fat (gm) 24.9 < 15.6
Monounsaturated Fat (gm) 22 **
Polyunsaturated Fat (gm) 6 **
Linoleic (omega 6) (gm) 5.3 12
Alpha Linolenic (omega 3) (gm) 0.8 1.1
Cholesterol (mg) 183 < 300
Vitamin A (mcg RAE) 152.4 700
Vitamin C (mg) 20.3 75
Vitamin E (mg a-TE) 1.7 15
Thiamin (mg) 0.9 1.1
Riboflavin (mg) 1.5 1.1
Niacin (mg) 17.2 14
Folate (mcg, DFE) 269.2 400
Vitamin B6 (mg) 1.1 1.3
Vitamin B12 (mcg) 5.2 2.4
Calcium (mg) 762 1000
Phosphorus (mg) 756.9 700
Magnesium (mg) 121.9 310
Iron (mg) 11.9 18
Zinc (mg) 12.6 8
Selenium (mcg) 87.9 55
Potassium (mg) 1270 4700
Sodium (mg) 3144 1500 - 2300

What this chart demonstrates is that this diet insufficient, as it does not meet the recommended daily requirements for many necessary nutrients. This diet lacks in calories; fiber; monounsaturated fat; polyunsaturated fat; omega 3 and 6 fats; cholesterol; vitamins A, C, E, and B-6; thiamin, folate, magnesium, iron, and potassium. This diet meets and/or exceeds the requirements for protein, carbohydrate, total fat, saturated fat, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, and sodium.

Also keep in mind that this analysis was based upon cheeseburgers alone. It did not contain the usual accompaniment of a large soda and fries. In this case, I would imagine the calories, fat, and sodium would be exceeded by a long shot.

In conclusion, 4 cheeseburgers per day is not an adequate diet for anyone. An in-depth look of the lack of key nutrients proves this. While a cheeseburger can fit into a healthy diet in moderation, the same adage goes for all foods- "There can be too much of a good thing". So please be sure that your diet includes a variety of different kinds of foods from each of the food groups.

Also, before going out, check to verify the nutrient intake of foods. Most restaurants have nutrition information available and the new food labeling laws will make this information more available at more restaurants and wherever food is purchased.

Has anyone else seen this show? Thoughts?

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