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  #1   ^
Old Thu, Nov-03-11, 09:05
Demi's Avatar
Demi Demi is offline
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Default Dr Briffa: Calorie labelling in restaurants and fast food joints thoroughly bad idea

From Dr Briffa's blog:


Quote:
3 November, 2011

Calorie labelling in restaurants and fast food joints is a thoroughly bad idea

I have a friend who until recently managed a hotel in the West of England. The restaurant at the hotel is Michelin-starred. My friend talked with me some months ago about calls for restaurants to post the calorie-counts of meals on the menu. He’s not keen on the idea, telling me (I paraphrase): “People don’t eat in Michelin-starred restaurants to count calories.” He’s right, of course, but there are other reasons why this practice, all the rage now in New York, is unlikely to do much good. Paradoxically, there is some evidence that it might actually cause harm.

The issues regarding calorie posting in restaurants and fast food joints was well discussed recently in an article that appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [1]. It describes how the introduction of calorie posting in New York was preceded by a study which found that individuals who noticed the calorie counts of food in a Subway ‘restaurant’ (Subway is, essentially, a sandwich shop), they ate bout 50 calories less than those who had not noticed the calorie postings. But, as the article points out, this does not necessarily mean that posting calories leads to lower consumption. It might be, for example, that ‘calorie-conscious’ people look for calorie counts and were going to choose lower calorie options anyway.

Making calorie posting compulsory in New York has allowed many more studies to be done on the effect of this practice. The result? Most studies show no effect, and when calorie intakes have fallen, the effect has generally been ‘miniscule’. More worrying yet, is the fact that some studies have found that posting calorie counts has led to an increase in consumption. In one study, for instance, labeling led to an increase in calorie consumption in those reporting that they were on a diet! [2].

The author of the piece in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition speculates on how posting calorie contents of food might actually increase caloric intake.

For example, some individual might naturally over-estimate the calorie contents of foods. Knowing the real (and lower) calorie content might therefore cause them to eat more of it.

Also, some individuals may see similarly priced but higher calorie options as providing better value for money.

The author draws our attention to the fact that calorie-obsessiveness might add to the tendency for some to exhibit ‘irrational, even neurotic, patterns of [eating] behavior’, and that ‘Calorie labeling can potentially amplify such neuroticism, converting eating from a necessary and pleasurable activity to one fraught with anxiety and internal conflict.’

To my mind, though, calorie labeling is a huge retrograde step in that it puts the emphasis on the (calorific) quantity of food as being important, over it’s quality. It reinforces the ideas that all calories have the same weight and health effects in the body (they don’t), and that something low in calories in somehow inherently better than something more calorific.

One disastrous consequence of this obsession with calories has been a general eschewing of fat in favour of carbohydrates. But carbohydrates drive insulin secretion which, among other things, drives deposition of fat in the fat cells. They can also, by promoting inflammation and perhaps other mechanisms, disrupt the function of the hormone leptin, leading to suppression of the metabolism and heightened hunger. Carbohydrate rich foods are not particularly satisfying either, particularly if they lead to drops in blood sugar some time later (which they often do) which can induce ‘false’ hunger and a craving for sweet or starchy foods.

Focus on calories is, if anything, counter-productive for weight control. It’s clearly not part of the solution to the obesity epidemic, despite what some policy-makers like to think.

References:

1. Loewenstein G. Confronting reality: pitfalls of calorie posting. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;93:679–80

2. Downs JS, et al. Strategies for promoting healthier food choices. Am Econ Rev 2009;99:159–64

http://www.drbriffa.com/2011/11/03/...ughly-bad-idea/
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  #2   ^
Old Thu, Nov-03-11, 10:25
RobLL RobLL is offline
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It is generally good to provide consumers information. What they do with it is their business. I am not sure that this need apply to high end restaurants, especially those whose food varies from day to day and with everything cooked from scratch.
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  #3   ^
Old Thu, Nov-03-11, 10:42
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deirdra deirdra is offline
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Many foods are made lower in calories by substuting junk for real food; so no, I don't want to see only calories on a menu.

I do like access to information on carbs, protein, fat types, and ingredients that can cause allergies & intolerances; but I don't need to see them on the menu, a website is fine. I mostly eat at home to avoid the crap that restaurants slip into their foods, but when I do eat out I select places with foods I trust.
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Old Fri, Nov-04-11, 04:54
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nifty55 nifty55 is offline
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Calorie content doesn't tell us anything about nutrition or provenance, a lump of coal has calories - is that on the menu?
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  #5   ^
Old Fri, Nov-04-11, 08:48
RobLL RobLL is offline
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No, but if you order a salad and it has 1500 calories you know it ain't the lettuce and tomato. Applebees is a worst offender in this regard. They seem to add huge amounts of sugar to everything, including meat entrees.
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Old Fri, Nov-04-11, 13:37
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Dodger Dodger is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobLL
No, but if you order a salad and it has 1500 calories you know it ain't the lettuce and tomato. Applebees is a worst offender in this regard. They seem to add huge amounts of sugar to everything, including meat entrees.
I bet that they're not adding much sugar, just lots of HFCS.
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  #7   ^
Old Sat, Nov-05-11, 13:43
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Merpig Merpig is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobLL
No, but if you order a salad and it has 1500 calories you know it ain't the lettuce and tomato. Applebees is a worst offender in this regard. They seem to add huge amounts of sugar to everything, including meat entrees.
Any sort of "chain" restaurant like Applebee's - where the food is probably shipped in pre-made and frozen from some central warehouse (clearly not salad greens, but undoubtedly the dressings and toppings) are pretty iffy.

But a high-end chef-run restaurant? One with Michelin stars? Well I've often read that one of the things that makes food so awesome in these restaurants is the copious amount of real butter and cream they use! Does anyone here really want to see butter and cream reduced in favor of what? Cheap margarine? Industrially procssed "creamer" products? If I ate an a really awesome restaurant like that (something I'm likely to do only once every year or three, if that) I sure wouldn't worry about calories!
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  #8   ^
Old Wed, Nov-09-11, 19:30
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gonwtwindo gonwtwindo is offline
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I for one have used those calorie counts on menus already. I can judge for myself what's healthy, and from there choose lower calories. I appreciate having calories on the menu now.

I was shocked to see that my favorite happy hour item at Flemings, the cajun shrimp, was something like 3,000 calories. I don't order it too often now as calories realllly count for me these days. If I don't keep it super low, I won't lose. Good news is, low carb/high calorie doesn't seem to make me gain.

Anyway, nice to have this tool available on menus!
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  #9   ^
Old Thu, Nov-10-11, 00:28
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freckles freckles is offline
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Quote:
It reinforces the ideas that all calories have the same weight and health effects in the body (they don’t), and that something low in calories in somehow inherently better than something more calorific.


THIS ^^^^^

It puts the emphasis on the <wrong> thing! I could eat a stick of butter and shoot my calories through the roof....but that would be WAY better for me than eating a 100 calorie pack of Oreos.
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