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Practice Short cuts

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BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 14 September 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:592
  1. Alison Tonks (, associate editor

    Fat and thin people fail to guess the calorie content of large meals

    We all tend to underestimate the calorie content of what we eat. But it's been clear for some time that people who are overweight tend to underestimate more than people of normal weight, a bias that's disastrous for weight control. Doctors have always assumed that fat people are simply lying to themselves about what they eat, and by extension lying to the people trying to help them. Two recent experiments, however, show that it's meal size, not food psychology that counts. Both indicate that people, whatever their weight, find it harder to guess the calorie content of large portions than small ones. A sample of diners in fast food outlets in the US got it almost exactly right for small portions, but underestimated the calorie content of larger portions by 38%. University students given 15 pre-prepared meals to estimate did the same, underestimating the larger portions by over a fifth.

    If everyone makes the same mistakes, but overweight people eat more large portions, they will seem to be less accurate than people of normal weight. One solution would be a calorie count beside each meal on the menu. But it would be easier, say the authors, to advise people to take each small item separately (chips, burger, drink) rather than trying to guess the calorie content of the whole meal at once.

    Credit: ANN INTERN MED

    Needlestick injuries are more common after a night on call

    Interns working in US hospitals are more likely to get needlestick or scalpel injuries during extended shifts, a study has found. They are also more likely to be injured at night. 2737 interns reported the percutaneous injuries in monthly web based surveys for one year, with an average monthly response rate of 1548/2737 or 57%. For one year there were 0.029 injuries per intern per month.

    Compared with a normal day, the odds of …

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