Researcers: Calorie Counting at McDonald's Doesn't Guarantee Healthier Eating

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A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health reveals that providing people with calorie guidelines has essentially no effect on how they order.

Carnegie Mellon University researchers decided to test the theory that calorie counts encourage people to make better ordering choices, by analyzing the choices of adult McDonalds customers at lunchtime, at two different New York City locations. Lunch-goers were given three different categories of information: the recommended daily calorie intake for both men and women, the recommended per-meal calorie intake, and no information at all.

It turns out that the presence of additional information didn't help people to order lower caloric meals, according to HealthDay. In fact, the people who received the additional information actually ordered higher calorie meals.

“There have been high hopes that menu labeling could be a key tool to help combat high obesity levels in this country, and many people do appreciate having that information available," said study lead author Julie Downs, associate research professor of social and decision sciences in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t appear to be helping to reduce consumption very much, even when we give consumers what policymakers thought might help: some guidance for how many calories they should be eating."

Downs added that in the end, "The bigger issue is that asking people to do math three times a day every day of their lives is a lot. Because it's not like we make a decision about what to eat just once. It's a lot of decisions."

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