- Researchers say displaying calories on menus can reduce cardiovascular disease
- The rise in takeaways and eating out is thought to be a factor driving high levels of obesity.
Calorie counting on menus should be mandatory for all restaurants, pubs and takeaways after research found the policy saves lives.
The measure was introduced as part of the government’s national obesity strategy, but only applies to food serving businesses with 250 or more employees.
Now researchers say more than 9,000 heart disease-related deaths could be prevented if it were implemented more widely.
In the first estimates of the impact of current calorie labeling, scientists estimate it will save hundreds of lives by 2041.
But if expanded to all food outlets, this would have a significantly greater impact on cardiovascular deaths, as well as reducing obesity rates.
Martin O’Flaherty, professor of epidemiology at the University of Liverpool, said: “More than one in four adults in England are currently living with obesity, and trends suggest this will increase.”
As part of the government’s national obesity strategy, food serving businesses with 250 or more employees must display calories on their menu. But there are now calls for smaller cafes and restaurants to follow suit.
‘Our research estimates that current calorie labeling legislation will prevent hundreds of deaths from cardiovascular disease over the next 20 years; however, a much greater impact is possible if the Government were more ambitious in its aims to tackle the obesity epidemic in England and extended the policy to all out-of-home food businesses.’
The rise in eating out and takeaways is widely believed to be one of the main drivers of the country’s bulging waistline.
Experts suggest that putting calorie counts on menus can help diners make healthier choices when eating foods they haven’t prepared themselves.
The legislation, which applies to around 18 per cent of food businesses, was introduced in April 2022, but campaigners believe it should be expanded for maximum public health benefits.
The study, led by the University of Liverpool, found that without any menu calorie labeling policy there would be an estimated 830,000 deaths associated with cardiovascular disease by 2041.
Modeling suggests that, with current policy, around 730 deaths can be prevented over the next 20 years and the prevalence of obesity in England reduced by 0.31 per cent.
If it were extended to all food businesses in England, it could prevent around 9,200 deaths (almost 13 times more) and reduce obesity by 2.64 per cent, the researchers said.
Dr Zoe Colombet, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Liverpool, said: “Our results suggest that extending calorie labeling on menus to all English out-of-home food businesses could play an important role in future government strategies to help people make healthier choices to combat obesity.
‘However, policy alone cannot solve England’s obesity crisis.
“We encourage the Government to continue and strengthen England’s anti-obesity strategy with a wide range of policies, such as calorie labelling, tackling junk food marketing and levying the soft drinks industry, which will reduce obesity. and will limit the impacting health risks.gap of inequalities in our society.’