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Calorie Labels Don't Affect Kids' Fast-Food Choices
Date:2/15/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Posting calorie counts of menu items at fast-food restaurants doesn't appear to inspire teenagers and parents of younger children to order less-fattening meals, new research finds.

Researchers who studied menu choices at four fast-food restaurant chains before and after mandatory labeling took effect in New York City said the legislation did little to lower calorie consumption.

"We didn't notice a change in calories purchased before and after labeling [went into effect]," said study leader Dr. Brian Elbel, assistant professor of medicine and health policy at the New York University School of Medicine and Wagner School of Public Service.

"Labeling [calories] is not going to be a silver bullet," he said. Restaurant-related efforts to combat childhood obesity will need additional approaches, such as telling consumers an ideal range of calories for each meal, he added.

Fast food has been linked to rising rates of childhood and adolescent obesity, the authors note.

While teens at fast-food restaurants noticed the posted calorie counts at about the same rate as adults, this didn't usually translate into ordering lower-calorie options, said the authors.

Their findings are published online Feb. 15 in the International Journal of Obesity.

As part of the nation's new health-care reform act, restaurants with 20 or more locations must post the calorie content of their menu items. New York City was a pioneer in requiring labeling, launching its program in July 2008.

For two weeks that summer, Elbel and his team studied the fast-food choices of 349 children and teens, ages 1 to 17, in low-income areas of New York City and Newark, N.J., both before and after calorie labeling was introduced. Newark had no labeling requirement.

The restaurants were McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Kentucky Fr
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