Calorie counting counts on menus & # 39; s WORKS: Fast food eaters consume 60 fewer calories when restaurants tell them how much all their meals contain
- Harvard Uni discovered that people consumed 4% fewer calories when labels were issued
- Major study looked at 50 million fast food transactions over a three-year period
- It is new evidence because British health professionals are considering mandatory calorie labeling
Forcing restaurants to put calorie labels on their menus can significantly reduce the amount of calories that customers eat, a large survey has confirmed.
Health employers in the UK are currently considering whether they want to roll out mandatory calorie labels at chains across the country.
The scheme was introduced in the US in May 2018, but there is little concrete evidence of its effectiveness.
But scientists at Harvard University have now discovered that people consume 60 chains fewer calories with the labels on the menus.
They analyzed more than 50 million purchases in 104 restaurants before and after calorie labels became mandatory in the US.
Forcing restaurants to put nutrition labeling on their menus reduces the amount of calories that customers eat (file image)
The team led by Dr. Josh Petimara, only looked at chains in the deep south, where obesity rates are among the highest in the country.
They took weekly sales data from restaurants two years before the labeling policy – from April 2015 to April 2017 – and one year later.
Researchers calculated the total calories for each menu item and grouped items in one of the five categories.
They were subdivided into main courses, side dishes and desserts, sugar and sweetened drinks, low-calorie drinks and spices.
After adjusting for the baseline trend, season and holidays, calorie label was associated with an immediate decrease of 60 calories per transaction, or 4 percent of the total number of calories purchased.
HAVE RESTAURANTS BEEN WORN TO LABEL THEIR MENU & FOOD INFORMATION?
British restaurants are not required to legally label their menus, unlike the US where it has been mandatory since March 2018.
Last year the government announced its intention to introduce mandatory calorie labeling throughout England in the hope of tackling childhood obesity.
A consultation was launched in September as part of the ambitious goal of the Ministry of Health to halve childhood obesity by 2030.
Former senior medical officer Dame Sally Davies recommended that nutrition labeling be made mandatory for all supermarket foods.
NHS figures showing the percentage of children who are obese in England have risen by more than a third since 2007.
However, this initial decrease was followed by a small weekly increase in calories per transaction in the following year.
So at the end of the study, the 60-calorie reduction had dropped to just 23 fewer calories for each purchase.
This rise in trends can happen faster for people on lower incomes, the authors note, although these results should be viewed with caution.
They point to some study limitations, such as being unable to calculate the calories purchased per person or measuring meal adjustments.
These include adding herbs, drink refills or how much of each meal was eaten.
& # 39; Before conclusions are drawn about the overall effectiveness of calorie labeling as a nutrition policy, future research needs to be done to estimate the effects of labeling over a longer period, especially if restaurants have had sufficient time to complete their menus. to reformulate, & # 39; the authors concluded.
Researchers from Oxford University welcomed the findings in a linked editorial.
But they warned that mandatory labeling could cause restaurants to stuff their dishes with salt or sugar to reduce calories but preserve flavor.
While these results may be disappointing for some, they note that small changes in calorie intake can have meaningful effects at the population level.
They argue for & # 39; a multi-faceted, intergovernmental approach & # 39; to address obesity, where calorie and nutritional labeling on restaurant menus should play a role.
WHAT WOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Basic meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grain
• 30 grams of fiber per day: this is the same as eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-grain cereal cookies, 2 thick slices of whole-grain bread and a large baked potato with the skin on it
• Provide some alternatives to dairy or dairy products (such as soy drinks) with options for less fat and less sugar
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which must be fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume in small quantities
• Drink 6-8 cups / glasses of water per day
• Adults must have less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell guide
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