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250 calories, 2.6 miles of walking, or 78 minutes of walking: which would cause you to eat less?

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MORE ON EXERCISE EQUIVALENTS VS CALORIE COUNTS ON MENUS

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We’ve written before about exercise equivalents over calorie counts, citing some initial encouraging data. Now there are more data, also encouraging.

The new article is called Potential effect of physical activity based menu labels on the calorie content of selected fast food meals. These authors tested four variant menus “(1) a menu with no nutritional information, (2) a menu with calorie information, (3) a menu with calorie information and minutes to walk to burn those calories, or (4) a menu with calorie information and miles to walk to burn those calories”. The authors found, as before that calorie counts decreased the amount of calories people chose to consume, and that exercise equivalents (telling you how much walking time or walking distance you’d need to burn off those calories) increased the effect.

We’d like to know the effect size of (3) vs (4) and are awaiting a full copy of the paper.

ABSTRACT

In this study we examined the effect of physical activity based labels on the calorie content of meals selected from a sample fast food menu. Using a web-based survey, participants were randomly assigned to one of four menus which differed only in their labeling schemes (n = 802): (1) a menu with no nutritional information, (2) a menu with calorie information, (3) a menu with calorie information and minutes to walk to burn those calories, or (4) a menu with calorie information and miles to walk to burn those calories. There was a significant difference in the mean number of calories ordered based on menu type (p = 0.02), with an average of 1020 calories ordered from a menu with no nutritional information, 927 calories ordered from a menu with only calorie information, 916 calories ordered from a menu with both calorie information and minutes to walk to burn those calories, and 826 calories ordered from the menu with calorie information and the number of miles to walk to burn those calories. The menu with calories and the number of miles to walk to burn those calories appeared the most effective in influencing the selection of lower calorie meals (p = 0.0007) when compared to the menu with no nutritional information provided. The majority of participants (82%) reported a preference for physical activity based menu labels over labels with calorie information alone and no nutritional information. Whether these labels are effective in real-life scenarios remains to be tested.

REFERENCE
Sunaina Dowray, Jonas J. Swartz, Danielle Braxton, Anthony J. Viera
Potential effect of physical activity based menu labels on the calorie content of selected fast food meals ☆
Appetite, Volume 62, 1 March 2013, Pages 173–181
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2012.11.013

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