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 WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

nachricht First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

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: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>