WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- A quarter-pound double cheeseburger is over 500 calories. Yet people still opt for the cheeseburger despite seeing the calories labeled on a menu. What really deters people from ordering high calorie meals? Seeing the amount of exercise it takes to burn it off.
Researchers from Texas Christian University (TCU) say that most studies show the amount of calories ordered or consumed does not decrease when calorie information is displayed. Despite this finding, restaurant chains with twenty or more establishments across the country must still present calorie content by law.
The TCU researchers decided to study a new approach to encourage consumers to make healthier choices: exercise amounts.
By displaying the amount of time you would need to walk briskly in order to burn off the calories, the study found consumers ordered and ate fewer calories. Surprisingly, there was no difference in the amount of calories consumed when customers ordered from a calorie-labeled menu versus a non-labeled menu. All options on the menus were the same.
"Brisk walking is something nearly everyone can relate to, which is why we displayed on the menu the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories," said Ashlei James, lead researcher and graduate student from TCU, in a press release.
The study analyzed 300 men and women who were 18 to 30 years old.
"We can't generalize to a population over age 30, so we will further investigate this in an older and more diverse group," said Dr. Meena Shah, the senior researcher. "This is the first study to look at the effects of displaying minutes of brisk walking need to burn food calories on the calories ordered and consumed."
It's important to keep in mind that the amount of exercise needed for every person differs, yet that information doesn't appear on the menu. It takes a 200-pound man a different amount of time to walk briskly and burn off the calories than a 100-pound woman.
The results of the study were presented at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting.