Restaurant menu labeling may not be reaching target audience, study indicates

February 18, 2014

A study by researchers at UNT Health Science Center indicates that the people most likely to use restaurant menu labeling are those who already are exercising, eating more fruits and vegetables, and drinking less soda and sugar-sweetened beverages.

The researchers, Sumihiro Suzuki, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics, and Kelly Bowers, a PhD student in Biostatistics, wrote about their findings in Preventing Chronic Disease, a peer-review journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Menu labeling is designed to combat the nation’s obesity epidemic. By 2020, an expected 80 percent of Americans will be overweight or obese.

But the UNTHSC research concludes that labeling efforts may not be reaching those people with unhealthy behaviors.

“Given that more than 50 percent of Americans eat at fast food restaurants and other commercially prepared meal establishments approximately three times a week, the purpose of displaying nutritional data in restaurants is clear,” Dr. Suzuki said. “However, the research at this point shows that the effects of menu labeling may not yet be reaching people living lifestyles more conducive to becoming overweight or obese.”

The article notes that although the cause of obesity is complex, frequently dining outside the home is a risk factor for significant weight gain, as restaurant food tends to be more caloric and higher in fat, sodium and sugar.

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