Calories on menus don't affect kids' food choices

Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:34am EST
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Requiring fast-food restaurants in New York City to post calorie counts on menus did little to cut the number of calories children and teens consumed, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

They found that children and adolescents noticed the calories posted on the menu but the calorie counts made little difference in what they chose to order. The researchers said taste was the most important factor the children and teens gave for their menu selections.

The study, published online in the International Journal of Obesity, challenges the notion that calorie labeling affects purchasing behavior of teens or parents buying food for their children.

"It means we're going to have to rethink what other sorts of interventions might be more effective," Dr. Brian Elbel of NYU, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.

Mandating calorie counts on restaurant menus is part of President Barack Obama's new healthcare law is included in the White House's push to reduce rates of obesity, which is one of the biggest health challenges facing the United States.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says two-thirds of American adults and 15 percent of children are overweight or obese. In some states, the childhood obesity rate is above 30 percent.

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, spearheading an administration initiative on child obesity, has urged food manufacturers to re-package food so that it is healthier for kids.