Would You Like Extra Calories With That?

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Yesterday, Mya posted about a study that showed eating fast food was associated with an increase in these measures associated with metabolic syndrome (high BMI, large waist and high blood pressure).  As evidence mounts that eating fast food can contribute to overweight and obesity, many cities and states are considering legislation to require these establishments to include nutrition information on their menus.Nathans

Last year, New York City began requiring some chain restaurants to post calories on menus. Health officials hoped it would curb the number of obese New Yorkers. But do these measures affect how people choose their foods?

One year later, two studies show differing results from the calorie count experiment.

The first study examined 1,156 fast-food purchases in low-income, minority neighborhoods. The authors found that although nearly 28% of people who saw calorie labels said it influenced their choices, they did not find any change in calories purchased.

The second study, conducted by New York City health officials and presented at the 2009 Obesity Society conference, reported that customers who took the calorie information into account (about 15% of those surveyed) bought about 106 fewer calories than customers who didn’t use the information.

While it’s probably too early to say whether or not these initiatives will make a difference in people’s food choices in the long run, experience has shown that knowledge alone doesn’t typically translate into behavior change.

What do you think – will putting calorie counts on the menu help people make healthier choices and reduce their caloric intake? Are there policies that could nudge people toward healthy behavior?

AICR offers tips, self-assessment tools, and ideas for small step dietary changes to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Read more about calories and fast food from AICR Nutrition Consultant, Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN.

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Author: Alice RD

Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention into action by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

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