In the face of increasing obesity rates, American restaurants are now required to include calorie counts on their menus. And if a recent study from Cornell University were to be believed, this rather simple change could have a significant impact on diners’ ordering habits.
Customers: We’re cool with calorie-counting
The USA’s Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires chain restaurants with at least 20 units to include calorie information on their menus. This rule was just implemented May this year — a move that many deemed necessary in a country with obesity rates that have tripled over the last half-century.
Cornell’s researchers conducted a field experiment involving two full-service restaurants, with a sample size of about 5,500 diners. They randomly assigned diners to either a control group (which received menus with no calorie information) or a treatment group (which received menus with calorie counts). They found that on average, the diners that had access to calorie numbers ordered appetizers and entrees with 3% fewer calories than diners with ordinary menus. (The fact that they could see the calories didn’t affect their choice of drinks or desserts.)
Meanwhile, revenue, profit, and labor costs did not change for the restaurants themselves. Furthermore, customers from both groups expressed support for the new rule, especially those with access to the new menus. In other words, publishing calorie information did not negatively affect the restaurants, at least according to the study findings.
(Main) Course correction for Filipinos?
A quick look at the numbers would suggest that the Philippines could greatly benefit from a rule like this.
The World Hunger Report 2018 revealed that the Philippines is among the Southeast Asian nations with the most alarming obesity rates, in spite of the fact that there are about 14.2 million undernourished Filipinos. According to the report, the Philippines has around 400,000 overweight children below 6 years of age. Furthermore, 3.8 million adult Filipinos fall under the “obese” range.
However, experts say these numbers stem from multiple factors, not just irresponsible eating. These include the higher cost of nutritious food, physiological adaptations to food restriction and scarcity, the lack of food security, and even the effects of climate change on food production and the agriculture sector in general.
Meanwhile, diabetes remains the eighth leading cause of death in the Philippines. A whopping 3.7 million cases of diabetes emerged in 2017, based on data from the International Diabetes Federation. Forecasts indicate that at the rate we’re going, approximately 183 million Filipinos will have diabetes, come 2045.
Health-conscious Pinoy diners would certainly appreciate seeing calorie counts on local restaurant menus. When it comes to solving the larger problem of malnutrition and obesity in the Philippines, course correction may require much more than merely adding numbers on the side of each menu item. Nevertheless, evidence points to this bite-sized step being a step in the right direction.
Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco
Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.