How important is restaurant menu labeling?

February 11, 2014 • Uncategorized

Dr. Sumi Suzuki

In a recent article published in Preventing Chronic Disease, a peer-reviewed journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Sumihiro Suzuki, PhD, SPH Assistant Professor of Biostatistics, and Kelly Bowers, Biostatistics PhD student, found that the people most likely to use restaurant menu labeling were those who already are exercising, eating more fruits and vegetables, and drinking less soda and sugar-sweetened beverages.
While menu labeling is intended to combat the nation’s obesity epidemic – with estimates that by the year 2020, an expected 80% of Americans will be overweight or obese – this research concludes that labeling efforts may not yet be reaching those people with unhealthy behaviors.
Obesity is defined as primarily a lifestyle-related condition, most often related to a person’s physical activity and nutritional habits. It has been linked to consuming few servings of fruits and vegetables and a high level of sweetened beverages.
Although, as the article notes, the cause of obesity is complex, frequently dining outside the home is a risk factor for significant weight gain, as restaurant foods tend to be more caloric and higher in fat, sodium and sugar.
“Given that more than 50% 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.”