Calorie counts on food menus don't work. That's because they require a lot of mental math. Ambling into a Starbucks, how many customers have a solid sense of how many calories they have already consumed that day? Do they know how many more they intend to eat? Can they make a decision on how a 380-calorie grande Pumpkin Spice Latte fits into that calculus, especially considering the uncaffeinated mob of customers impatiently waiting in line behind them?
It's complicated thinking. And without the context of where that item of food fits into their daily intake, it's hard to make an on-the-spot nutrition decision. That's why earlier this year the Food and Drug Administration redesigned nutrition-fact labels for supermarket goods to make them more easily scannable.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University recently tried to figure out whether they could add greater nutritional context to these on-the-spot purchasing decisions. In their study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, they targeted one of America's most at-risk populations when it comes to health and nutrition: black teens. As a group, black teens consume twice the recommended amount of sugary drinks for their age group. These dietary habits have long-term consequences, as African-Americans contract diabetes at a rate nearly double that of white Americans. Thirty-five percent of black children age 2 to 19 are overweight or obese (compared with 30.1 percent of all children 2-19 who are obese).