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Fat Follies

Jean-Michel Cohen and Patrick Serog recently published the book Savoir Manger in which they compared 5000 foods available to the French population in restaurants and supermarkets. The comparison that is getting a lot of press is that of Quiche Lorraine to the McDonald's "Big Mac" where the Big Mac is claimed to be healthy food.

Here is the Rhino Fitness perspective on this story:

The Cohen and Serog comparison used a 100 gram portion of Quiche Lorraine with 359 total calories, 26.2 grams of fat (243 calories from fat), and 11.6 grams of protein. The Big Mac also was a 100 gram sample with 239 total calories, 12 grams of fat (111 calories from fat), and 12 grams of protein.

Cohen/ Serog "Big Mac" - Quiche Comparison:

100 gram portions
Big Mac
Quiche Lorraine
Fat grams
Protein grams
Protein divided by Fat Ratio

The independent study uses a simple division formula, dividing the protein grams by the fat grams. The Big Mac works out to 1 in their study and the Quiche Lorraine works out to .44, a ratio that the authors claim to be "very unhealthy", making the Big Mac "considerably healthier".

The trouble with this unique way of claiming that a Big Mac is healthy is that the protein to fat ratio formula they used is not the typical formula used to indicate "healthy servings" of fat. The formula that is used to indicate "healthy servings" is the percentage of the total caloric intake that represents fat and more importantly the total grams of fat per serving. The total fat intake for one day is recommended to be no more than 30% of the total caloric intake or half a gram of fat per pound of body mass for a non-overweight person and less for an overweight person, making for an average fat intake to range between 55 and 90 grams of fat per day for persons weighing between 105 and 180 pounds (47 to 81 kilograms). Typically a dietitian will recommend about of 65 grams of fat per day for a male and 50 grams for a female.

If this protein to fat ratio formula used in the study is used as the sole criteria to determine "healthy food" with a ratio of 1 being good, then a serving of food with 100 grams of fat and 100 grams of protein (1360 total calories) would be "healthy". It would be difficult to find a dietitian that would agree with this.

Additionally the study didn't use actual serving sizes in their comparison. In fact the serving size for a Big Mac in North America is 223 grams with 32 grams of fat, more than two times the size they used in their study. A traditional Quiche Lorraine, made from cream, eggs, and smoked bacon, is up to 670 total calories (and more) with an astonishing 93% of those calories from fat. That's 67 grams of fat in one serving.

Comparing Actual Serving Sizes For Big Mac and Quiche;
Total Fat Per Serving:

Actual Serving Size For One Serving
Big Mac*
Quiche Lorraine
Total Calories Per Serving
Total Calories Fat
Total Fat Grams
Percentage Of Calories From Fat
Percentage of Total Fat Intake For One Day In Each Serving
(For average 110 to 180 LB 47 - 81 kg person)
35 - 58%
75 - 122%

*"Big Mac" nutrition data from http://www.mcdonalds.ca/en/food/calculator.aspx

Clearly when we use the standard nutritional recommendations, both the quiche and the Big Mac have up to 58% and more of a persons total fat intake for the day in one serving, and that is not considered healthy fat intake. Why did the researchers use a nonstandard measurement to make their statement that a Big Mac is healthy eating? Are they trying to sell burgers?

While it's difficult to take the Cohen - Serog comparison seriously, it speaks loudly of the plethora of misinformation regarding diet and nutrition. You can depend on Rhino Fitness to provide a more balanced perspective.

When comparing Quiche to a Big Mac, the Big Mac has less fat, but with 32 grams of fat the Big Mac can hardly be referred to as "healthy". Furthermore a typical fast food meal doesn't stop at one burger, it usually includes fatty fries as well, increasing the total fat intake beyond what was measured in the limited scope of the Big Mac - Quiche comparison. The Big Mac - Quiche comparison is like comparing a 10-megaton nuclear bomb to a 9-megaton nuclear bomb, technically the 9-megaton bomb is smaller, but it will kill you just the same.

Click here (BC Ministry of Health) and here (US Gov. Food Guide) for information on fat intake for one day.


Copyright 2004 Rhino Fitness

Copyright 2004 Rhino Fitness. All rights reserved.
For more information contact: clabossiere@rhinofitness.ca