For The Love Of Calories

New York passed a law requiring restaurants to post caloric information. A new study on fast food establishments in New York suggests the information is not helping individuals make healthier choices and may be doing the opposite. Jonah Lehrer wonders why:

[T]he brain...receives rewarding input from metabolic processes that have nothing to do with the tongue. When you eat at McDonald's, or order that venti mocha latte, a big part of the pleasure comes from the fact that the food is sustenance, fuel, energy. The end result is that even mediocre food is a little rewarding. In fact, I wonder if part of the reason the calorie information led to the consumption of more calories (and not less) is that people subconsciously chose items that would give them more pleasure. If that's the case - if we are implicitly aware of this second reward pathway in the brain - then nutritional information will often backfire, as people are drawn to the precise foods they should avoid.

Further thoughts from Drum, Sager, and McArdle.