Washington: Parents become choosy and
order less fatty food for their children if the restaurant`s
menu contains calorie information of each item, according to a
new study led by an Indian origin scientist.
The research led by Dr Pooja S Tandon at Seattle
Children`s Research Institute, US, is the first such study to
suggest that putting nutrition labels on fast food may lead to
a significant reduction in high-calorie food consumption by
"Just an extra 100 calories per day may equate to
about ten pounds of weight gain per year. Our national
childhood obesity epidemic has grown right alongside our fast
food consumption," said Dr Tandon.
"Anything we can do to help families make more
positive choices could make a difference."
For their study, the researchers asked nearly 100
parents about the food habits of their children, aged 3 to 6
years, who sometimes eat at fast food restaurants with family.
Half of the parents presented with sample McDonald`s
restaurant menus which included current prices and pictures of
items, while others given a menu that contained calorie
information of each item.
When they were asked what they would select for
themselves and also for their children as a typical meal,
parents who had access to nutrition information chose 102
fewer calories on average for their children, compared with
the other group who only knew the price of the items.
This reflects a calorie reduction of approximately 20
per cent. Notably, there was no difference in calories between
the two groups for items the parents would have chosen for
"Even modest calorie adjustments on a regular basis
can avert weight gain and lead to better health over time,"
said Dr Tandon.
"We know that fast food consumption is rising
alongside alarming rates of child obesity in this country.
"These results make me optimistic that if parents are
given nutritional information at the point of ordering -- and
not on a Web site or tray liner -- they will have the tools to
make healthier, lower-calorie choices for their children."
The findings, published online in Pediatrics journal,
have suggested that even small changes in behavior that affect
energy balance by about 100 calories per day could avert
weight gain in most adults.
Many fast-food restaurants don`t provide nutrition
information at the point of purchase. But restaurants in many
places in the US have been asked to make nutritional
information be readily available at point-of-ordering in chain
Federal menu labeling standards have also been
discussed as part of health care reform legislation.