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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Extreme Calorie Consciousness

Published September 17, 2012 3:33 PM by Robin Hocevar

This fall, nutrition advocacy is hot. Last week, McDonald's announced a move to post calorie information on their menu at an earlier date than required by the federal health care bill. 

In the same timeframe, New York City's Board of Health officially banned the sale of sugary drinks in excess of 16 oz. in restaurants.

Few can dispute the fact that the obesity epidemic in this country must be addressed. But questions remain if such measures will work.

Mayor Bloomberg's office noted that 58 percent of New Yorkers are considered overweight or obese and one in eight city residents have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Interestingly enough, McDonald's has been posting calories in New York and Philadelphia since 2008. Researchers at New York University School of Medicine compared McDonald's teenage patrons in New York with those in neighboring Newark, NJ. According to the study findings,  half of the teenagers took note of the calories, but continued to purchase an average 725 per register trip. What's more, 25 percent of parents who were buying children's meals noted the calories, but continued to purchase about 600 calories at a time for their youngsters.

Alternatively, a different study found publishing calories had significantly affected Americans' beverage choices. In low-income areas of Baltimore, teens were found to be 40 percent less likely to select a full calorie drink after seeing nutrition information than in stores without calories posted.

I have no doubt both measures were enacted with only the best of intentions. In the short term, I wonder if patrons will choose blissful ignorance and give their patronage to other fast food establishments. For myself, trips to Panera became much more complicated once I learned how much fat was contained in my beloved caprese salad wrap. Still others are aware that the Quarter Pounder or regular Coke is an indulgence and opt in despite the high calorie count.

Do you think the calorie information will have the intended outcome? Or the super size soda ban will slim waistlines in the Big Apple?


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