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Calorie Counts on Menus Prove Ineffective

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Listing the amount of exercise to burn off the calories consumed may be a better method.

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There's a new study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that suggests there may be a better way to make people aware of how their restaurant orders will affect them than simply listing calorie counts. Soon, the Affordable Care Act will require chain restaurants to list calories next to each menu item — but that method has already proven to be ineffective. Researchers suggest instead listing the the miles or minutes of walking or running it would take to burn off the calories. Sarah Bleich — one of the researchers — tells NPR that "people don't really understand what it means to say a typical soda has 250 calories" and believes that listing how much exercise one would need to do "may be the more persuasive way."

The researchers posted calorie counts and "miles to walk" signs in corner stores in low-income neighborhoods in Baltimore and watched teenagers who purchased soda. They found that "roughly 35 percent of teens who noticed the signs" bought on average 14 calories less worth of soda. They also started to buy drinks that were around 37 percent smaller. While the differences were not drastic, they did make a difference. Bleich adds that if she carried out the study in a high-income area, "the effects would be even larger."

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