I have one more comment on Washington Post reporter Lyndsey Layton’s comments yesterday on the Kojo Nnamdi show. Nnamdi asked Layton about the new regulation (included in Obamacare) that requires calorie information on menus in chain restaurants, convenience stores and on vending machines nationwide.
Layton responded that those should be issued sometime in 2012 then said “that’s going to be an interesting sociological experiment to see whether having the calorie count is going to change consumer behavior when they’re making choices.”
Well, yes Ms. Layton, that is an interesting experiment and if you’d done your homework (or a little actual reporting) you’d know that those experiments have already been done and the results are in.
Of course, Nnamdi and Layton both mention studies that they say show the calorie postings make a difference (though interestingly they never actually name the studies).
Perhaps they’re referring the wildly unscientific study (which I wrote about here) included in the White House Task Force on Obesity which claims to show that people made healthier choices when presented with calorie information. Further examination shows that that study was conducted in one Subway sandwich shop on only 292 participants, the vast majority of whom where adult white males who admitted they were currently dieting. This isn’t exactly research upon which major policy decisions should be based.
Studies that show that calorie infomraiton does nothing to sway choices are numerous: Let me just list a few:
* Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School found that calorie counts on menus do little to improve people’s food decisions.
* NYU’s School of Medicine, examined the eating habits of teens and found that menu labels have little effect on their (and their parents) food choices.
* In Great Britain, researchers found that customers’ menu choices stayed the same despite the information provided to them.
* A joint NYU/Yale study found that calorie information did nothing to persuade people to make healthier choices.