The Regulation of Calories: The More You Know, The Less You Care

A new proposal is taking aim at fixing America’s obesity problem, by placing calories count on all products sold in vending machines. Since most nutrition labels are placed on the back of food packages, this new measure would bring the calories component to the front as another consideration, next to price, as a purchasing consideration.

The problem I have with it is the underlying philosophy.

There seem to be many problems with the philosophy, particularly personal liberty. This doesn’t impinge upon rights as much as the nanny-state of New York might (soda taxes, bans, etc) but it is a pretty big insult, a slap in the face if you will. By doing this, lawmakers are basically telling us that we aren’t smart enough to figure out these things for ourselves.

Those who go to a vending machine generally don’t have their health in mind. A vending machine does not offer healthy choices to begin with so calories count would be superficial. What makes the government think doing this will really have any substantial effect on obesity?

Studies have shown that calories counts on restaurant menus in the long term are essentially worthless when it comes to getting people to choose lower calorie options. The same will probably happen for vending machines.

The calories count will simply prove to be another thing to look at before realizing that you wanted that Twix bar anyway.

My other issue is the idea that calories are the quintessential markers for health. This is absolutely absurd. Based upon that logic, I can lick phone screens and have a low calorie diet.

The dramatic emphasis on calories is at the expense of all other nutrients falling into oblivion. Most of the calories in food come from carbohydrates, which is a piece of information as important as the calorie count.

Calories are a worthless measure of health. Just eat low calories and you will be healthy. What a load of baloney.

Interesting fact: bologna has little- to-no carbs which makes it less calorically dense. However, your body needs carbs to form glucose, which is fuel for the body.

Chances are whatever is in vending machines doesn’t have a lick of nutrition. So this unnecessary emphasis on calories in food that isn’t supposed to be healthy misinforms the public in a way. Choosing a vending machine snack that has less calories isn’t a healthy option. Calories are merely an energy measure. Should we not worry about vitamins? Minerals? Macronutrients ratios?

Just the calories — this is the problem with modern nutrition. Everything is centered on the calories now, so much so that micronutrients are being swept under the rug. Bad proposition.

My biggest problem? More laws. More propositions. More bulk. More regulations. More problems. Do we really need this law? It’s practically pointless.


David Vu is a fourth-year Public Health Policy major. He can be reached at