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Study: Calorie Count on Fast-Food Menus Gives Diners Pause

Study: Calorie Count on Fast-Food Menus Gives Diners Pause

(Source: Creative Commons)


October 30, 2009

WASHINGTON — People who used the calorie information available at fast-food chain restaurants in New York City bought 106 fewer calories’ worth of food at lunch than those who didn’t see or use the information, a study shows.

Researchers at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene set out to analyze the impact of the city’s menu labeling law, which went into effect in March 2008 and required chain restaurants to post calories on menu boards.

The researchers surveyed more than 10,000 diners at 275 locations of the top fast-food and coffee-chain restaurants in the spring of 2007, and then more than 12,000 people again this spring. Customers disclosed their register receipts and completed brief questionnaires.

Among the findings reported here Monday at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society, a group of weight-loss researchers and professionals:

•15% of customers say they used the calorie information at lunch; 56% say they saw it.

•Those who used the information purchased an average of 754 calories’ worth of food at lunch in 2009; those who didn’t see or use the information bought 860 calories’ worth of food.

•Those who saw and used the information consumed 152 fewer calories at hamburger chains and 73 fewer calories at sandwich chains compared with everyone else.

•At coffee shops, total calories purchased dropped from 260 in 2007 to 237 calories in 2009.

•The overall calories purchased decreased at nine chains between 2007 and 2009, including dropping significantly at McDonald’s, Au Bon Pain, KFC and Starbucks.

•The calories from foods purchased at Subway increased significantly, possibly because diners were purchasing a special deal on 12-inch sandwiches.

“A growing number of consumers are using this information and making lower-calorie purchases,” says Lynn Silver, assistant commissioner of NYC’s Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Control. “We know that behavior changes take time. We hope consumers increasingly use this information to make healthier choices and that companies will offer more healthful choices and more appropriate portion sizes.”

The research was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and New York City.

©2009 Yellowbrix, Inc.

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