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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] ASU students find income, education affect calorie menu use

From the 5 February Arizona State University press release

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ASU students find income, education affect calorie menu use
Melissa Wenzel

Fast food restaurants around the country are starting to look a little different. Step up to the counter and you may notice calorie counts listed next to food items on the menu. Which customers notice and use that information to make healthier choices depends on their income and education level.

A newly published research study conducted by graduate students Jessie Green and Alan Brown under the guidance of Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, a nutrition researcher at the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University, examined whether noticing and using calorie menu labels was associated with demographic characteristics of customers at a national fast food chain currently posting calorie counts. They found that approximately 60 percent of participants noticed the calorie menu labels but only 16 percent reported using the labels to determine food and beverage choices.

Green and her co-authors found that customers with higher incomes were twice as likely to notice the calorie labels and three times more likely to use them.

The study, published today in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the first of its kind specifically designed to examine the likelihood of customers noticing and using calorie menu labels in fast food restaurants in a mixed income and racially diverse sample of adults.

“Studies show consumers and nutritionists alike have trouble estimating the calorie and nutrient content of a restaurant meal,” Ohri-Vachaspati said. “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. 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, and customers with lower income and lower education levels reported using menu labels to a much lesser extent.”

In the United States, fast food is the second-largest source of total energy in the diets of children and adolescents. Studies have found frequently eating out at fast food restaurants is associated with greater weight gain and obesity, leading to a plethora of chronic health issues.

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February 6, 2015 - Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , ,

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