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

Adding total calories to the labels of major US restaurants will save American lives and billions of dollars, a study suggests.

In May 2018, the US Department of Agriculture required all chains with 20 or more locations to list the number of calories on their menus.

With an estimated 20 percent of all US meals being eaten in a restaurant, researchers believe the labeling change has reduced the average amount of calories consumed per meal by 20 to 60.

The Tufts University team believes this has helped shed the average American’s 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 life.

Tufts researchers created a model that found that regulations that forced chain restaurants with more than 20 locations to put calorie counts on their menus significantly reduced obesity rates — thereby helping prevent cancer cases (file photo).

More than a dozen cancers are linked to obesity, and a decrease in disease rates may also help lower cancer rates.

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

This in turn saves millions in healthcare costs across the nation and keeps people in work where they can continue to contribute to the economy.

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

Tufts researchers say it’s responsible for two in five cancers, including colon cancer, which is more common in young people.

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

“Our population-level view suggests that these labels may be associated with significant health benefits and cancer-related healthcare cost savings that could be duplicated with additional industry responses.

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

Researchers speculate that the presentation of calories on menus forced many restaurants to reduce the calories of their unhealthiest foods.

Placing calorie markers prominently on food before a person orders can also encourage them to choose healthier options.

Many nutritionists advise against eating in restaurants because foods tend to be high in salt, sugar, and trans fats.

It’s also harder for a person to know exactly what’s in their food, since many menus don’t come with complete lists of ingredients.

However, restaurant food still makes up a large part of the US diet. A 2019 survey found that 56 percent of Americans eat out two to three times a week.

Americans get around 20 percent of their calories from restaurant meals.

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

Over a year, this accounts for about a pound of weight loss.

They believe that weight change will prevent cases of obesity. As a result, fewer of the 13 cancers associated with obesity will form over time.

These include colon cancer, which experts have warned is increasing in people under the age of 65 – the age at which the disease usually develops.

“From this research, we can see how labeling guidelines, which effectively encourage consumers to make healthier dietary choices, are a form of cancer prevention – reducing a person’s likelihood of being obese and developing an obesity-associated cancer while.” they improve the quality of life at the same time.” said Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, a cancer epidemiologist at Tufts.

“These policies don’t require a lot of money, especially compared to the cost of cancer screening, but they offer many benefits.”

The researchers believe the menu labeling change will be most helpful for young people, ages 20 to 44, who have a long way to go to avoid lifestyle choices that put them at risk of cancer.

Reducing obesity rates can also prevent deaths from other diseases related to the condition, such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

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

However, it is unclear how much can actually be drawn from these figures. There is little research on whether calorie labels influence consumer behavior.

The study assumes that restaurant eaters make decisions based on calorie counts, if they look at them at all.

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

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