The days of caloric self-delusion are numbered. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration announced that many places where Americans have long noshed in blissful ignorance, like amusement parks, chain restaurants, and movie theaters, will be required to post calorie counts on their menus.
The hope is that if customers know that each slice of Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate cheesecake contains 1110 calories (yep, sorry), they'll eat fewer of said slices. If people everywhere are truth-bombed into adjusting their eating habits, the thinking goes, the obesity crisis could finally start to recede.
The rub is that it's unclear whether people actually change their behavior based on calorie counts, as Matt Schiavenza wrote in The Atlantic recently. Here's a brief overview of some of the recent studies on the topic:
- Sara Bleich, an associate professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University, found that only 30 percent of patrons noticed calorie listings in restaurants.
- A 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that McDonalds customers given slips of paper with instructions on how many calories they should eat didn't eat less than those given no information.
- Researchers at Stanford found that at Starbucks locations that listed calories on their menus, people bought 14 percent fewer calories in food, but not in drinks.
- In a 2008 study in New York City, only slightly more than half of consumers noticed calorie counts posted on menu boards. Only 15 percent said the information changed what they ordered. A 2010 study in Philadelphia generated similar results.
- One study in Seattle found no change in the number of calories ordered at burger and sandwich restaurants, but a small decline at taco and coffee shops, Vox notes.