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Posted Calorie Counts Make Little Difference, New Study Finds

Posting calorie counts apparently doesn't discourage folks from buying the especially unhealthy options at fast food restaurants.


Photo: rutlo (flickr)

A Taco Time like this provides calorie counts for their customers.

In 2009, Seattle passed a law requiring all fast food restaurants to post their foods calories, fat and sodium content. Now a new study finds that even with the calorie postings, people are just as likely to order the bad-for-you foods as people who don’t have that information.

Counting Calories

For 13 months, researchers recorded food purchases at seven suburban TacoTimes and seven metropolitan locations in Seattle.

Contrary to their hypothesis, “We found no difference,” said lead author Eric Finkelstein. “We looked at the variables – the transactions, total calories per transaction, food, dessert, entrees. We weren’t able to find any effect whatsoever.” Similar studies about calorie counts in menus have found marginal effects or no difference at all.

This new study isn’t that surprising. Obesity rates continue to rise even after the FDA required nutritional content to be marked on pre-packaged foods.

Putting Laws On The Books

Even though this study found that there was no widespread weight loss due to calorie postings, the new health care reform bill mandates that all fast food restaurants post their nutritional information. The FDA’s rules, which are due in March, will provide a standard for all fast food chains to follow.

“My sense is that if these laws are to have an effect, it’s going to be on the supply side,” Finkelstein said, referring to fast food companies. “If they’re embarrassed about 2,000-calories lunches, they might try to skimp on calories, sodium and fat.”

Read More:

  • Customers pay little heed to calories on menu (CNN)
  • Calorie data to be posted at most chains (NYTimes)
Katie Dawson

Katie Dawson is a sophomore at IU majoring in journalism and Spanish. Currently she lives in Bloomington, IN but is originally from Indianapolis. She enjoys cooking, eating and sometimes exercising.

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