January 20, 2015 / 9:14 PM / 4 years ago

Calorie counts on menus used by women, wealthier diners in Seattle area

A meal of a "Monster"-sized A.1. Peppercorn burger, Bottomless Steak Fries, and Monster Salted Caramel Milkshake is seen at a Red Robin restaurant in Foxboro, Massachusetts July 30, 2014. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

(Reuters) - Women, higher-income diners and patrons of fast-food restaurants in the Seattle area are more likely to use restaurant calorie count information, according to survey results published on Tuesday.

The research findings from Washington State’s King County, which includes the city of Seattle, add to a growing body of data on how such disclosures, meant to curb the U.S. obesity epidemic, may influence dining habits.

The study was based on surveys of more than 3,000 King County residents who frequent chain restaurant. It began eight months before the county required restaurants to post calorie information at the beginning of 2009, and continued for two years after that.

Women, higher-income individuals and diners who ate at fast-food chains said they were the most likely to use the information. White, higher-income and obese customers were more likely to see the calorie information. Researchers did not ask how diners put calorie information to use.

“It was a confirmation that if you post calorie information, more people are going to see it and more people are going to use it,” said Roxana Chen, lead author and social research scientist for public health for Seattle and King County.

The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published online by the American Journal of Public Health.

Chen said the latest study builds on related RWJF-funded research published in 2013. In that study, researchers examined receipts from more than 7,300 King County restaurant customers and found that patrons, particularly women, who saw the calorie counts purchased fewer calories than those who did not.

King County was the second U.S. jurisdiction, after New York City, to implement a calorie counts under a menu-labeling law.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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