Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Despite menu changes, calorie and sodium levels in chain restaurant entrees remain the same overall

01.10.2013
Study finds restaurant industry takes one step forward, one step back in menu nutrition

Although a number of chain restaurants have announced healthy menu changes over the years, the overall calorie and sodium levels in main entrées offered by top U.S. chain restaurants assessed from 2010 to 2011 have remained the same, according to a study published today in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The study, "Changes in the Energy and Sodium Content of Main Entrées in U.S. Chain Restaurants from 2010 to 2011," evaluated the nutritional content changes of more than 26,000 regular menu entrées in a year by 213 major U.S. chain restaurants nationwide. It also looked at entrées among restaurants that included children's menus.

"Restaurant menus did not get any healthier over time," said Helen Wu, a policy and research analyst at the Institute for Population Health Improvement at UC Davis Health System.

Between the spring of 2010 and spring of 2011, Wu and Roland Sturm, senior economist at the RAND Corp., reviewed restaurant websites for nutrition information. They found that, even with all the substitutions and reformulations eateries made to their menus, restaurants made no meaningful nutrition changes overall. The average entrée in 2010 contained 670 calories and remained at 670 calories one year later. Sodium levels only dropped from 1,515 milligrams per entrée to 1,500 milligrams at follow-up.

"Across the restaurant industry, we see a pattern of one step forward, one step back," Wu said. "Restaurants make changes to their menus regularly, but they may make both healthy and unhealthy changes simultaneously. This study provides objective evidence that overall, we did not see a new wave of healthier entrées come in to replace less healthy ones."

The study was conducted at a time when restaurants faced ongoing internal and external pressures to increase healthier menu offerings. For example, the study examined restaurant menu changes in the year following passage of a federal menu-labeling mandate, which was passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. More than three years later, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not issued final regulations directing chain restaurants to post calorie information on menus, though some restaurants, such as McDonald's, have already started posting calorie counts on their menu boards.

Americans consume approximately one-third of their total calories and spend half of their food budget eating away from home. Yet restaurant menu offerings do not encourage healthy eating.

This new study is a follow up to an earlier Wu and Sturm study, published online in May 2012 by the journal Public Health Nutrition, which found 96 percent of entrées by top U.S. chain restaurants failed to meet daily limits for calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Within individual restaurant brands, a few brands did significantly lower the average calorie or sodium levels of their main entrées, but some brands significantly increased them. The vast majority of restaurant brands did not have significantly different calorie or sodium levels for their main entrées.

The study also found that overall, children's entrées did not become healthier in the period studied, although fast-food restaurant entrées were reported to be 40 calories lower, on average.

The study also specifically examined those entrées that were added or reformulated between 2010 and 2011, and found no differences in calories. At family-style restaurants, new entrees at the 75th percentile (i.e., those at relatively higher sodium levels to start) were 70 mg lower in sodium in 2011, but even with those changes, entrées at family-style restaurants are still far too high in sodium for anyone watching their sodium intake.

"Consumers need to be aware that when they step into a restaurant, they are playing a high-stakes game with their health by making dietary choices from menus that are loaded with high-calorie, high-sodium options," Wu said. "This is a game that health-conscious consumers have a very low chance of winning, given the set of menu offerings available in U.S. chain restaurants today."

More change could be seen with a longer-term study, and after the federal menu labeling requirement of the Affordable Act Care is implemented, but multiple strategies will be needed to make progress on restaurant menu nutrition.

"The implementation of a national menu labeling law could be an important strategy to accelerate progress on menu nutrition in restaurants by encouraging more substantial menu nutrition changes," Wu said.

"Maybe some more encouragement is needed, as in the Choose Health LA Restaurants program that the Department of Public Health started in September," Sturm said. "Restaurants participating can post a large decal in their window if they offer smaller portion sizes and healthier children's meals with less fried food and more fruits and vegetables."

In the United States, 82 percent of adults eat out at least once a week. Previous research has shown that increased consumption of food away from home is associated with increased consumption of calories, fat and sodium. Currently, two-thirds of U.S. adults and nearly one-third of children and teens are obese or overweight.

The research was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Healthy Eating Research program.

Helen Wu | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Osaka university researchers make the slipperiest surfaces adhesive

18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>