7

I was reading Quora and came across this answer in my reader's digest. The question is What are some psychological facts that most people don't know? and the answer has ten items. The one that caught my attention was #7:

  1. Posting a calorie chart in restaurants leads people to choose less healthy foods.

The other nine items are either things I've already known, or they're plausible. This one, however, is surprising. Is there any evidence to back this up, and if so, what is it?

  • 1
    Should we assume that "less healthy" is synonymous with "higher calorie" for the purposes of this question? – Matt May 14 '15 at 15:19
  • @Matt: That's certainly reasonable, but I would also say that less of good nutrients and/or more of bad ones would count too. – El'endia Starman May 14 '15 at 15:29
  • 1
    Well, there is the thing where salad comes with lot of dressing based on olive oil. It has ridiculously high calorie count, even though actually you're most likely not gonna use all of the dressing, and even the part you'll use, most of it will just stay on the bottom of the plate. – vartec May 14 '15 at 19:27
  • 2
    @vartec: True. It's worth noting however that I'm not the one that's claiming this. I would think that if someone finds a study with this conclusion, then that study would presumably define "less healthy". I don't care all that much about the precise definition of "less healthy". – El'endia Starman May 14 '15 at 19:37
  • @El'endiaStarman: fair enough, I'm just giving an example when that could happen. Also, IIRC there was question here about HFCS, which even with same calorie count causes more obesity. – vartec May 14 '15 at 19:42
4

Content declaration do not seem to affect people's choices, no

Considerable time has passed since the question was posted, and the claim has been changed. Now the claim says:

  1. A calorie chart in restaurants doesn’t lead to healthier choices. After speaking with, and researching my initial answer I feel compelled to change my first response from: A calorie chart in restaurants can lead to less healthy choices, too: A calorie chart in restaurants doesn’t lead to healthier choices.

This is a significant difference to my previous response, and I apologize for any misunderstandings or incorrect assumptions to the readers. The truth is: calorie menus in restaurants don’t lead to “LESS” healthy decisions, it/they simply don’t lead to “better” decisions.

So the claim is that calorie declarations do not lead to better nor to worse choices.

Is this claim supported?

Is seems so. From this Washington Post article there is a link to a study.

A Meta-Analysis to Determine the Impact of Restaurant Menu Labeling on Calories and Nutrients (Ordered or Consumed) in U.S. Adults

Thaisa M. Cantu-Jungles,1 Lacey A. McCormack,2 James E. Slaven,3 Maribeth Slebodnik,4 and Heather A. Eicher-Miller5,*

Abstract

A systematic review and meta-analysis determined the effect of restaurant menu labeling on calories and nutrients chosen in laboratory and away-from-home settings in U.S. adults. Cochrane-based criteria adherent, peer-reviewed study designs conducted and published in the English language from 1950 to 2014 were collected in 2015, analyzed in 2016, and used to evaluate the effect of nutrition labeling on calories and nutrients ordered or consumed. Before and after menu labeling outcomes were used to determine weighted mean differences in calories, saturated fat, total fat, carbohydrate, and sodium ordered/consumed which were pooled across studies using random effects modeling. Stratified analysis for laboratory and away-from-home settings were also completed. Menu labeling resulted in no significant change in reported calories ordered/consumed in studies with full criteria adherence, nor the 14 studies analyzed with ≤1 unmet criteria, nor for change in total ordered carbohydrate, fat, and saturated fat (three studies) or ordered or consumed sodium (four studies). A significant reduction of 115.2 calories ordered/consumed in laboratory settings was determined when analyses were stratified by study setting. Menu labeling away-from-home did not result in change in quantity or quality, specifically for carbohydrates, total fat, saturated fat, or sodium, of calories consumed among U.S. adults.

  • Anecdotally, I do find myself taking calorie count into consideration when such information is posted, but I don't use it as the ultimate decider of what I choose to eat. I'm only one person, though. – JAB Aug 17 '18 at 20:13

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