Stealth Calorie Decrees

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A few weeks ago, the New York Times produced the results of a study which showed that calorie postings on food/beverage items in restaurants do not change consumer buying habits.

It found that about half the customers noticed the calorie counts, which were prominently posted on menu boards. About 28 percent of those who noticed them said the information had influenced their ordering, and 9 out of 10 of those said they had made healthier choices as a result.

But when the researchers checked receipts afterward, they found that people had, in fact, ordered slightly more calories than the typical customer had before the labeling law went into effect, in July 2008.

The Washington Times has noted that the 1,990 page health care bill includes “a requirement for chain restaurants to post caloric information on their menus.” This will include the indoor menu boards and drive-thru menus of chains, as well as vending machines. Besides the totalitarian aspect of the whole thing, calories are not the sole, or even main determinant of weight and health. Weight loss programs based on the calories in/calories out paradigm do not work and have not worked for decades. But Americans tend to love simplistic formulas that are doomed to perpetual failure. On that note, I once again recommend Good Calories, Bad Calories by the outstanding science journalist Gary Taubes.

5:03 am on November 1, 2009