Does Knowing the Calorie Content of Foods Help?

There was an interesting article in the New Y0rk Times today written by Roni Caryn Rabin and entitled “Calorie Labels May clarify Options, Not Actions” (NYT Tuesday July 17, 2007, page D6).  The article summarized quite a bit of data on the effects of food calorie information on food choices when people eat out.  In summary, data show that consumers want to have such information available (New York City has a law requiring that fast food and chain restaurants post calorie information on the menu or menu board) but such information does not often get consumers to make lower calorie choices- studies show (no references included) that only 10-20% of diners would choose lower calorie options knowing the calorie content of various menu items.  That’s a rather interesting disconnect between knowledge and action.  It’s like the lecture I gave last week to our University Hospital Pediatric Department entitled “Why there so much childhood obesity and what to do about it.”  The lecture was well-attended and the audience was attentive and asked great questions but guess what they had to eat at the sign-in table?  Glazed donuts!  As part of the talk I gave a “nutrition quiz.”  I was surprised to learn how few people knew even some of the answers.  How would you do on the test?  The questions were as follows:

1. What are trans fats and what’s good about them and what’s bad about them?

2. How many calories in a gram of fat?  Is that good or bad or both good and bad?  How many calories in a gram of carbohydrate?  What about in a gram of protein?

3. What percentage of foods in a supermarket are derived at least in part from corn?

4. How many grams of sugar and calories are in a “regular” soda?

5. How many Hostess Twinkies were eaten in the U.S. last year and how many calories total does that represent?  How do they get the cream filling in the twinkies anyway?

I’ll post the answers to the quiz in the next day or so.

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