Calorie counts on restaurant menus reduce how much people eat by 12%, study finds

Less than you expected?

Olivia Petter
Tuesday 27 February 2018 15:31 GMT
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

You would think that putting calorie counts on menus would discourage diners from overindulging. Seeing four-figure numbers in black and white next to that giant chocolate milkshake should be enough to put you off ordering it, right?

However, a new study has shown this is not necessarily the case.

In fact, putting calorie information on restaurant menus has been found to reduce how much diners eat by just 12 per cent, according to a new study published in the Cochrane Review.

In the example of a 600-calorie meal, consisting of a soft drink and a pizza slice, this equates to roughly 71 calories, that's. the same amount in a single digestive biscuit.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford combined results from a variety of studies evaluating the effect of nutritional labels on purchasing and consumption habits in a systematic review.

After close analysis, they found that calorie labelling reduced the amount of calories consumed by 12 per cent, however, they concluded that further studies would be needed to establish how effective this reduction really is.

“This evidence suggests that using nutritional labelling could help reduce calorie intake and make a useful impact as part of a wider set of measures aimed at tackling obesity,” said lead author, professor Theresa Marteau.

“There is no ‘magic bullet’ to solve the obesity problem,” she added, “so while calorie labelling may help, other measures to reduce calorie intake are also needed.”

The findings come after the Food and Drug Administration implemented a policy in the US whereby restaurants with 20 or more locations must show calorie counts on their menus from May 2018.

It’s a ruling that’s already in place across a number of UK and US eateries, such as Starbucks, Pret A Manger and McDonald’s.

Professor Ian Caterson, president of the World Obesity Federation, commented: “Energy labelling has been shown to be effective: people see it and read it and there is a resulting decrease in calories purchased.

“This is very useful to know – combined with a suite of other interventions, such changes will help slow and eventually turnaround the continuing rise in body weight.”

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