Do You Pay Attention To Menu Calories? Study Says Most People Don't

The fast-food industry is often blamed for ballooning public health problems like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

With the goal of making people more conscious of their food choices, U.S. law now requires fast-food chains to post calorie information on menus. A recent study, however, suggests people aren't paying that much attention to these guidelines.

"Because fast food is a popular choice among Americans, we wanted to see how effective menu labeling was and if it helped customers make healthier choices," said study author Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, nutrition researcher at the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University. "What we found, however, was that while the majority of customers noticed the labels, a very small percentage reported using them to influence their purchasing decisions."

Plethora of chronic health issues linked to fast food

According to a press release issued about the study, fast-food is the second largest source of dietary energy for children and adolescents.

The price of this is a "plethora of chronic health issues" that may be affecting low-income and less educated individuals the most.

But if posting calories on menus isn't working, what's the solution?

According to Ohri-Vachaspati, helping consumers understand the context of how things like calories, fat or carbohydrates affect overall health is important in getting them to fully understand the impact of their food choices.

"People need to know how to interpret the information," Ohri-Vachaspati said.

Including a statement about daily calorie guidelines at fast-food restaurants or teaching children to read menu labels in school might both be steps in the right direction.

"Once menu labeling is implemented, the fast-food industry and public health community must work together to make it easier for consumers from all income and education backgrounds to understand and use this information," said Ohri-Vachaspati.

Source: Arizona State University

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