Health and Medical News and Resources

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

hamburger
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.

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Mandatory calorie postings at fast-food chains often ignored or unseen, does not influence food choice

From the NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine 15 November 2013 press release via EurkAlert

Population health expert Brian Elbel of NYU Langone presents findings today at leading scientific conference on obesity

November 15, 2013 – Posting the calorie content of menu items at major fast-food chains in Philadelphia, per federal law, does not change purchasing habits or decrease the number of calories that those customers consume, researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center reported today at the Obesity Society’s annual scientific meeting, held in Atlanta, Georgia. The results echo those conducted by the same researchers among low-income neighborhoods in New York City before and after calorie-labels were mandated there in July 2008.

“What we’re seeing is that many consumers, particularly vulnerable groups, do not report noticing calorie labeling information and even fewer report using labeling to purchase fewer calories,” says lead study author Dr. Brian Elbel, assistant professor of Population Health and Health Policy at NYU School of Medicine. “After labeling began in Philadelphia, about 10 percent of the respondents in our study said that calorie labels at fast-food chains resulted in them choosing fewer calories.”

As part of an effort to encourage people to make healthier food choices, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates that restaurant chains with 20 or more locations nationally must post the calorie content of all regular food and drink items on their menu board or printed menus.

Yet there is limited scientific evidence from real-world studies to support calorie labeling. Moreover, little is understood about how calorie labels will impact different populations. Obesity affects more than one third of Americans, but hits low-income, urban neighborhoods hardest. “Studies have not generally examined whether labeling is more or less effective for particular subgroups,” says Dr. Elbel.

Dr. Elbel and team set out to assess the impact of calorie labels at fast-food chains in the wake of the new legislation. In their latest study, conducted in Philadelphia, researchers collected receipts from more than 2,000 customers, ages 18 to 64, who visited McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants during lunch or dinner before and after February 2010, when the calorie-label law went into effect in Philadelphia.

Each customer was asked a short series of questions, including how often they had visited “big chain” fast food restaurants in the last week; whether they noticed calorie information in the restaurant; and if so, whether they used the information to purchase more or less food than they otherwise would have at the restaurant.

The research team also commissioned a professional survey firm to simultaneously conduct a random phone survey of residents within the city limits of Philadelphia. Respondents aged 18 to 64 were asked a series of questions, including whether they had consumed any “big chain” fast food within the last three months. If they had, they were asked a series of additional questions about how often they eat fast food, along with demographic questions and their height and weight.

The researchers found that only 34 percent of McDonald’s customers noticed the labels posted to menu boards, compared to 49 percent of Burger King customers. Respondents with less education (high school or lower) were less likely to notice the labels. Moreover, respondents reported eating fast food more than 5 times a week, both before and after the labels were posted. There was no decrease in visiting fast food restaurants reported after calorie labeling began in Philadelphia.

(As a control, the researchers also surveyed customers of both chains in Baltimore, where calorie-labels are not mandated. About 70% of the customers surveyed in both cities were African American.)

“We found no difference in calories purchased or fast-food visits after the introduction of the policy,” says Dr. Elbel. “Given the limits of labeling reported here and in other studies, it’s clear that just posting calories is often not enough to change behavior among all populations. We need to consider other, more robust interventional policies in places where obesity is most prevalent.”

###

Investigators include, Brian D. Elbel, PhD,DPhil, Department of Population Health, NYU School of Medicine, and the Wagner School of Public Service, New York University, New York City; Tod Mijanovich,PhD, L. Beth Dixon,PhD, MPH, and Beth Weitzman, PhD, MPA, of the Steinhardt School, New York University; Rogan Kersh, MA, Department of Politics and International Affairs, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Amy H. Auchincloss, PhD, MPH, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Gbenga Ogedegbe , MD,MS, MPH, NYU School of Medicine.

This study was funded by National Institutes of Health (R01HL095935). The study sponsor had no role in study design.

About NYU Langone Medical Center

NYU Langone Medical Center, a world-class, patient-centered, integrated, academic medical center, is one on the nation’s premier centers for excellence in clinical care, biomedical research and medical education. Located in the heart of Manhattan, NYU Langone is composed of four hospitals – Tisch Hospital, its flagship acute care facility; the Hospital for Joint Diseases, one of only five hospitals in the nation dedicated to orthopaedics and rheumatology; Hassenfeld Pediatric Center, a comprehensive pediatric hospital supporting a full array of children’s health services; and the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, the world’s first university-affiliated facility devoted entirely to rehabilitation medicine– plus NYU School of Medicine, which since 1841 has trained thousands of physicians and scientists who have helped to shape the course of medical history. The medical center’s tri-fold mission to serve, teach and discover is achieved 365 days a year through the seamless integration of a culture devoted to excellence in patient care, education and research. For more information, go to http://www.NYULMC.org.

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 6.25.13 AM

November 16, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Report] Fast Food Facts 2013 Measuring Progress in the Nutritional Quality and Marketing of Fast Food to Children and Teens

Thinking my reaction to advertising was formed during weekly grocery trips when I was in grade school (back in the 60’s)
When we checked out the groceries I remember the candy, gum, and other goodies in the check out area.
While I did look at the items longingly, I knew not to ask for any of them. So, this carried over to advertising on television, especially Saturday morning cartoons.
McDonald’s? Thinking maybe, and just maybe we went there once during my grade school years.

 

From the November 2013 Robert Wood Johnson Report

thumbnail

 

The nutritional quality of fast-food meals, and how those meals are marketed to children and teens, has improved, but more work is needed.

The Issue:
Fast Food FACTS 2013, issued by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, examines the nutritional quality of fast food, and how restaurants market their foods and beverages to children and teens. The report examines 18 of the top restaurant chains in the United states, and updates a similar report released in 2010.

 Key Findings

  • A total of $4.6 billion was spent on all advertising by fast food restaurants in 2012. This was an 8 percent increase over 2009. McDonald’s spent 2.7 times as much to advertise its products as all fruit, vegetable, bottled water, and milk advertisers combined.
  • Less than 1 percent of all kids’ meal combinations met recommended nutrition standards.
  • On average, U.S. preschoolers viewed 2.8 fast food ads on TV every day in 2012; children aged 6-11 years viewed 3.2 ads per day; and teens viewed 4.8 ads per day.
  • Fast food restaurants continued to target black and Hispanic youth, populations at high risk for obesity and related diseases.
Conclusion:
Researchers conclude that while improvements have been made, there is more work to be done to improve the overall nutritional quality of fast food. Additionally, the researchers call for fast food restaurants to stop targeting children and teens with marketing that encourages frequent visits to these restaurants.

About the Study:
The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity used the same methods as it did for the original Fast Food FACTS in 2010. Nutritional data were collected in February 2013, and most marketing data examine practices through 2012. The report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

November 8, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: