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.
AdvertisementMany 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 restaurant menus," 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-
• First group of 99 subjects (CL): Menu that displayed calorie labels
• Second group comprising 99 subjects (NCL): Menus that did not display calorie labels
• Third group 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
• Calories 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 in India.
"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.
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