One in six customers who visited fast food restaurants used calorie information to choose lower calorie foods, according to a report published in the July 2011 online issue of BMJ. The research finding offers evidence that people can make healthy food choices if they're presented with facts to help them.
For the study, researchers from the New York City Department of Health and Human Hygiene randomly chose 168 locations of the 11 most popular fast food chains in New York City. Researchers surveyed thousands of restaurant patrons (7309 adult customers in 2007, and 8489 adult customers in 2009) to ascertain the impact of regulations that required fast food restaurant menus contain calorie information would have on customers' food choices.
What The Survey Found
42 percent of the survey repondents reportedly selected lower calorie food items. Patrons of several major chain restaurants including McDonald's, Au Bon Pain and KFC paid particular attention to calorie information. The results of the 2009 study showed that fifteen percent of respondents purchased 106 fewer calories than people who did not pay attention to calorie information (757 kcal vs. 863 kcal).
The scientists used linear regression modeling to analyze the survey data, making adjustments for income for the restaurant location, gender, type of food (number of foods purchased, beverage purchased) and cost of the item. Customers most likely to lower the calorie purchases were women and resident's of wealthier neighborhoods.
They found that people who used calorie information tended to purchase fewer foods, this makes sense as the number of food items purchased will affect calories. Cost of item didn't have much to do with food selection, people who used calorie information on average paid $5.19 for purchase, whereas those who didn't follow calorie information on average paid $5.07 for their purchases.
What Does This Study Mean To You?
Health officials point out that providing calorie information did not lead to a reduction in purchase of high calorie foods across all menus. For example, the Subway restaurant chain experienced a significant increase in purchase of high calorie foods despite calorie information being provided to consumers, but McDonalds, Au Bon Pain a KFC used the information to make healthier food choices.
The research team wrote: "Requiring that fast food chains supply calorie information provides a valuable resource for those customers who choose to use it."
The bottom line is that when people are provided with information, they can use it to their advantage. It is already established that the obesity epidemic is fueled to a large degree by lack of informed food choices. People with higher educations and incomes tend to choose healthier foods than lower income food consumers.
Cost of food can affect the nutritional quality of the foods that people buy, but that isn't always the case as the New York City Department of Health and Human Hygiene's study demonstrates. Education plays a significant part in the decision making process, if people don't know the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods, they might make the wrong choice.
When you go shopping or visit a restaurant, pay close attention to the labels. It's unreasonable to think that people are always going to eat the same type of foods (we need a varied diet), but if you order a pizza, for example, decide for yourself if ordering the cinnamon breadsticks is worth the extra calories.
God cares about us. He wants us to enjoy what He provides but refrain from overindulgence. It's up to you to keep yourself healthy by keeping in mind that God wants us to respect our body.
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Dumanovsky et al. Changes in energy content of lunchtime purchases from fast food restaurants after introduction of calorie labelling: cross sectional customer surveys. BMJ 2011; 343:d4464
"Fast Food Customers Really Do Pay Attention To Calorie Information, Research Study Finds" copyright © 2011 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.