Sunday, September 16, 2012

Does Calorie Posting on Menus Reduce Calorie Intake?

Does Calorie Posting on Menus Reduce Calorie Intake?

McDonald’s recently announced that they would post calorie content of their foods on their menu boards. The so called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), un-fondly known as Obamacare, mandates that chain restaurants with 20 or more locations post calorie content on their menus. That mandate takes effect in 2013.

So how about it?

Does calorie posting on menus reduce calorie intake?

A study in 2006 indicated that calorie labeling would be either misunderstood or unused. 
A recent critical analysis of published studies on fast food restaurants concluded that the data do not show reduced calorie intake from calorie posting on menus.

Two recent randomized trials were too brief and not real world.  One of these was performed by a vocal proponent of government intervention and showed positive results. The other study showed no benefit

In 2008, New York City required posting of calorie content on menus for all restaurant chains with locations in the city. The only study since then to determine the effectiveness of this regulation showed no impact on calorie intake.

In fact, posting calories on menus in fast food restaurants may actually do more harm than good. Some financially strapped customers may choose the most calories for their dollar. Others may be more anxious and conflicted seeing the calorie content of their food.

Assorted online responses to the McDonald’s announcement were really worth reading.

So, like most government mandates, this one does not have the science or data to support it.  

Those persons ready and motivated to lose weight or those trying to control their weight can choose smaller portions and lower calorie items.

All others are likely to say like one online responder: “just leave us alone”.

What do you think?  Are you surprised by these findings?
Share your thoughts and comments.



  1. It does influence me when I am at restaurants that post the calories. I would never purchase the highest calorie item to get more for my dollar.
    It all depends on your mindset. This is what drives my eating: I like to have something that takes a while to eat. In other words, I want to choose things that take longer to eat such as big salads, a big bowl of popcorn, lots of vegetables in lieu of things that go fast - like a small serving of ice cream or a 100 calorie bag of chips. (It goes without saying that I have always eaten very fast.) Another problem is that if I get my hands on a carton of ice cream, I like to keep eating it because the taste is so pleasurable. Same with chips or casseroles. In grocery stores when I look at the nutrition information, I always look at how many calories are in the whole package, since I may very likely consume it in one day.

    So does labeling calories help? I think it does because I always ask myself what I can choose that is lower in calories but where I will get a lot of food that I enjoy the taste of. One more thing, I am likely to do better in restaurants than I do at home because I feel more satisfied after getting discreet portions which taste good, but I can't go into the kitchen and ask for a second helping.

    As one who has struggled all of their life with weight and eating issues, there is no easy solution.

  2. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this which are likely shared by many other readers. These do differ from what the data and research show so far: no benefit from posting of calorie content on menus when it comes to reducing calorie intake.