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Surprising Science

Calorie Postings at Restaurants May Not Help the Poor Fight Obesity

When restaurants post calorie counts, does it help everyone? Research indicates that only the educated and rich may benefit, while the poor and obese will continue ordering cake.

The Food and Drug Administration has handed down a mandate to food distributors, in an attempt to curb the growing obesity epidemic, amusement parks, chain restaurants, and movie theaters must post calorie counts on their menus. As Olga Khazan writes for The Atlantic, these measures will hopefully act as a preventative measure to shock consumers into exercising caution before they order. But it may not work for the most at risk demographic: The poor.

Calorie counts would help reveal the truth about that 1100 calorie slice of cheesecake you’re about to order at dinner (it does exist). But this plan to shock people into proper eating habits may only work on the educated and well-off.

In a 2013 Gallup survey, the group sought to find what kinds of people pay attention to calorie postings at restaurants. It found that women, college graduates, and people who made $75,000 or higher were more likely to take note of nutrition labels. It also helps to weight-conscious. Those who were already consuming a healthy diet were less likely to say they were overweight.

Khazan argues that is doesn’t help to have a nutrition label if the overweight don’t read and act on the information. She references what George Loewenstein, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University, said to the New York Times recently:

“The people who most need the information don’t know how to use it.”

She isn’t trying to demonize the FDA for its attempts, in fact, Khazan notes the regulation has caused some companies to alter their menus in order to make them healthier. So, consumers won’t be frightened off by the exorbitant amount of calories in a single muffin at some chain restaurant. There is something to be said for the labels, they’re allowing the health-conscious to make well-informed decisions. But in order for it to work for everyone, there needs to be an foundation of information, financial stability, and awareness in order for the poor (and most obese) to make more health-conscious choices.

Read more at The Atlantic

Photo Credit: Nejron Phot/Shutterstock


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