STUDY: Why Calorie Listings Don't Matter

Study suggests a new way to get high calorie amounts across

flickr/Kevin Harber

In the past couple of years we have started to see an increase in the visibility of menu calorie listings. Since 2009, New Yorkers have become used to seeing calorie counts listed on chain restaurant menus, and many other establishments have followed suit. But now, with the calorie labelling requirements listed in the Affordable Care Act, restaurants with more than 20 locations will be required to post calorie information on their menus.

The new requirements have brought up the question of whether or not people actually pay attention to calorie listings. And the major consesus, no they are not. A new study from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that numbers aren’t making a difference, and there’s actually a much better way to let people what certain food will cost (health-wise).

The researchers suggested an alternative to writing out calorie amount, such as listing the amount of miles or minutes of running or walking that someone would need to burn off the calories.

To test their hypothesis, researchers tested it in low-income neighborhoods where a high amount of teenagers purchase soda. They posted calorie counts and ‘miles to walk’ signs in windows of corner stores and found that about 35 percent of teens who noticed the signs bought an average of 14 calories less of soda. These teens also started to buy drinks about 37 percent smaller after seeing the signs.

The conclusion, providing calorie information is associated with purchasing smaller or no calorie beverages. Or sometimes fo so far as to opting not to purchase a beverage at all. To give an example, a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola has 143 calories. To burn 143 calories you would need to walk for 40 minutes, jog for 16 minutes, or cycle for 22 minutes. That’s a lot of time for one small can of soda and with calorie counts, most people don’t even realize the exercise that must go in, just to burn it off.


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