Do Teens "Eat Fresh" at Subway?

A recent study by the Palo Alto Medical Research Foundation concluded that Subway "Eat Fresh" spokesman Jared "Slim" Fogle might as well pack up his road show because teens eat just as unhealthily at Subway as they do at Culinary Den of Iniquity McDonald's, reports [2] the Los Angeles Times.

According to the results published in the Journal of Adolescent Health [3], the 97 youngsters in the study (aged 12 to 21) bought an average of 1,038 calories at McDonald’s and 955 calories at Subway, an 83 calorie difference that is not statistically significant according to researchers. The Institute of Medicine's recommendation for a teen lunch is 850 calories, as the LA Times story notes.

So let me get this straight. The 83-calorie difference noted in the study is not significant while the 105 calorie difference between the IOM recommendation and the 955-calorie count racked up by the teens in the Palo Alto study at Subway IS statistically significant. Or at least that's the impression I get from the hand-wringing tone of the writeup. Well!…what a difference 22 calories can make you guys!

Of course, the 1,038, 955 and 850 calorie counts are all averages and the story doesn't say what the gender/age/body size breakdowns were for the studied group (the article text is restricted to subscribers, registrants and other paying customers). Obviously, 12-year-olds and 21-year-olds tend to have different calorie requirements, as do boys and girls, and football players and geeks.

Wouldn't even fairly minor variations in purchases wipe out that apparently fatal 22-calorie gap which is, what, a couple croutons? Yet it's used to launch a host of overwrought conclusions about the menu and promotional practices of both chains.