Would you rather avoid that
luscious cheeseburger if you knew you had to brisk walk for two hours to burn
it off? Most probably, yes.
Researchers, Ashlei James and
her colleagues from the Texas Christian University
tend to agree. At the
Experimental Biology 2013 meet in Boston, they reported that their research
indicated reduced calorie intake if the minutes of exercise needed to burn food
calories is displayed on the menu.
Many restaurants already display
calorie information on their menus as this is the social responsibility (and
the law in some countries) to encourage consumers to make healthier,
informed food choices
. But many studies show that this display does not
lead to fewer calories ordered or consumed.
"We need a more effective
strategy to encourage people to order and consume fewer calories from
said Dr. Meena Shah, a senior researcher and co-author
of the study.
So, they decided to investigate
the effect of menu labels displaying amount of exercise, brisk walking in this
case, needed to burn the food calories on foods ordered and consumed.
"Brisk walking is something nearly everyone can relate
to, which is why we displayed on the menu the minutes of brisk walking needed
to burn food calories," said Ashlei James, the lead researcher.
For the study they assigned 300
men and women to three groups- •
of 99 subjects (CL): Menu that displayed calorie labels •
comprising 99 subjects (NCL): Menus that did not display calorie labels •
comprising 102 subjects (EL): Menus with labels on the minutes of brisk walking
needed to burn the food calories
All menus contained the same
food/beverage options. Participants were in the age group of 18 to 30. And
brisk walking was chosen as the exercise because the researchers felt that most
people can relate to that.
Results were interesting-
• Fewer calories were ordered by the EL
compared to NCL group
There was no
difference between the CL and NCL groups in food calories ordered •
ordered and consumed were not different between the CL and EL groups •
There was no
difference in post lunch calorie intake by menu condition.
"This study suggests there are
benefits to displaying exercise minutes to a group of young men and women. We
can't generalize to a population over age 30, so we will further investigate
this in an older and more diverse group," Shah said. "This is the first
study to look at the effects of displaying minutes of brisk walking needed to
burn food calories on the calories ordered and consumed".
So far, so good. In India,
though, the situation is different, people here have a very limited choice of
restaurants or eateries offering healthy low calorie food. And displaying
nutrition information on the menu card is still a far cry for most restaurants
"We usually decide about the
restaurant to visit by looking at a few factors like whether it can satisfy our
taste buds, food presentation, service and ambience. When was the last time you
enquired about the nutrition information of the food you had at your favorite
restaurant?" asks Rahul Verma co-founder of Uday Foundation.
Maybe, now with the focus on reduced calorie intake
and increasing health consciousness among the urban citizens, India is going to
take note of this study.