The following article is part of conference coverage from the 2019 American Academy of Physician Assistants Annual Meeting (AAPA 2019) in Denver, Colorado. Clinical Advisor’s staff will be reporting breaking news associated with research conducted by leading physician assistants. Check back for the latest news from AAPA 2019.


According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 1 in 3 adults is considered obese,1 and these individuals are more likely to overestimate the caloric content of food compared with individuals with lower body mass indexes (BMI),2 as reported by research presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) annual meeting, held May 18 to 22 in Denver, CO.

Students from the Long Island University Physician Assistant program distributed surveys to a domestic population of 1422 adults to identify the relationship between patient BMI and the ability to estimate caloric content of food. Food items included beer, red wine, cheeseburger with french fries, a waffle with whipped cream, and white bread with hazelnut spread.

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A total of 858 participants completed the survey. The mean BMI for the population was 28.2 kg/m2 (27.6 for men and 28.5 for women). Participants successfully identified the average caloric intake needed to maintain male and female body weights. Participants with higher BMIs were found to report higher caloric estimates for the majority of the foods provided.

Men were found to overestimate caloric values at a 15.59% higher rate than women. Compared with dietician-verified values, men overestimated caloric content by 91.54% and women overestimated caloric content by 71.51%.

The results from the study demonstrate that caloric density should not used as the primary patient nutrition education tool as patients have been found to be unable to correctly estimate calorie values. The authors concluded, “…healthcare providers should teach and emphasize the importance of healthy eating patterns, including consuming (a) whole grains, (b) lean proteins, (c) fruits, (d) vegetables, and (e) healthy fats at annual well visits.”

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  1. Hales CM, Carroll MD, Fryar CD, Ogden CL. Prevalence of obesity among adults and youth: United States, 2015-2016. NCHS data brief, no. 219. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2015.
  2. Butigian C, Eng J, Ramdeholl E, Sanchez L, Jackson D. Food for thought: a study on BMI’s relationship to perception of caloric density. Presentation at: The American Academy of Physician Assistants Annual Meeting; May 18-22, 2019; Denver, CO. Poster 227.