Calories on restaurant menus will save 45,000 lives, study finds

Adding calorie totals to labels of major American restaurants will save American lives and billions of dollars, a study has found.

In May 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture began requiring all chains with 20 or more locations to list calorie counts on their menus.

With about 20% of all US meals eaten in a restaurant, researchers believe the labeling change reduced the average amount of calories consumed per meal by 20 to 60.

The Tufts University team believe this has helped drop the American’s average weight by a pound a year. Over time, they believe the change will prevent 28,000 deaths from obesity and 16,700 from cancer in the next lifetime.

Tufts researchers built a model that reveals that regulations requiring restaurant chains with more than 20 locations to put calorie numbers on their menus dramatically reduced obesity rates – and thus helped prevent cases of obesity. cancer (file photo)

More than a dozen cancers are linked to obesity, and lower rates of this disease may also help reduce cancer rates.

America is currently suffering from an obesity crisis, with more than 40% of the population being overweight.

This, in turn, saves the nation as a whole millions of dollars in health care costs and keeps people working, where they can continue contributing to the economy.

Researchers estimate long-term savings of $3 billion from this simple menu change.

Tufts researchers say it is responsible for two out of five cases of cancer, with colorectal cancers appearing more in young people.

“It’s important for us to continue to show consumers, policymakers and industry how small changes can lead to big benefits,” said Dr Mengxi Du, lead study author and nutritionist at Tufts, near from Boston.

“Our population-level perspective suggests that these labels may be associated with substantial health gains and savings in cancer-related healthcare costs that could be doubled with additional industry response.

“Like replacing high-calorie menu items with low-calorie options or reformulating recipes.”

The researchers believe that presenting calories on menus has forced many restaurants to cut calories from their most unhealthy items.

Clearly displaying calorie markers on foods before a person orders can also encourage them to choose healthier options.

Many nutritionists advise against eating out because foods are more likely to contain excess salt, sugar and trans fats.

It’s also harder for a person to know exactly what their food contains because many menus don’t come with complete ingredient lists.

However, restaurant meals are still a big part of the American diet. A 2019 survey found that 56% of Americans eat out two or three times a week.

Americans get about 20% of their calories from restaurant meals.

The Tufts research team built a model assuming that 20 to 60 pounds would be removed from every meal a person eats in a restaurant because of the labels.

Over a year, that’s about a pound of weight loss.

They believe that the weight change will prevent obesity cases from forming. As a result, it will mean fewer of the 13 obesity-related cancers that form over time.

These include colorectal cancer, which experts have warned is on the rise in people under 65 – the age when the disease usually develops.

“From this research, we can see how labeling policies that effectively encourage consumers to make healthier food decisions are a form of cancer prevention – they reduce the risk of being obese and developing associated cancer. to obesity, while improving quality of life,” Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, cancer epidemiologist at Tufts, said.

“These policies do not require a lot of expense, especially compared to cancer screening costs, but offer many benefits.”

The researchers believe the change in menu labeling is most helpful for young people aged 20 to 44, who still have plenty of time to avoid lifestyle behaviors that put them at risk for cancer.

Reducing obesity rates can also prevent deaths from other illness-related illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Overall, the change could save around $3 billion over a lifetime.

But, it’s unclear how much can actually be gleaned from these numbers. There is little research on the effect of calorie labels on consumer behavior.

The study assumes that restaurant consumers make decisions based on calorie labels, if they even look at them at all.

It is also difficult to say whether companies have adapted their offers in place of the new regulations five years ago.

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