Knowing the calorie and fat content in the often overwhelming selection of foods in dining halls and large restaurants could lead to healthier choices, according to a new study.

“In this “obese-o-genic” world, the consumer needs all the help they can get to resist the temptations that the food industry uses to have us increase consumption,” says co-author David Levitsky, a professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University in the US.

In the study, Levitsky and his team introduced food labels on products at the Cornell University dining hall. Working with with weekly sales data collected over a period of three semesters before and after the labels appeared, they spotted a 7% reduction of the mean total calories students purchased.

Students also bought less fat, sending purchases of high-fat products down 7%, while low-calorie food purchases increased, according to the study.

“It’s a small but significant effect,” says Levitsky, whose findings support the theory that the obesity epidemic is the result of gradual increases in daily calorie consumption.

People would avoid food with high calories and high fat if they were shown the nutritional information, says study. Photo: Shutterstock

People would avoid food with high calories and high fat if they were shown the nutritional information, says study. Photo: Shutterstock

If you find yourself easily tempted by sweets and other unhealthy foods, it might be a good idea to select a restaurant that reveals nutrition information on the menu.

“Our study is one of the few definitive studies demonstrating, at least in a university dining hall, that putting calories and fat content on the label on various foods purchased in the dining hall produces a reduction in calories and fat content purchased,” says Levitsky.

Last year, the US Food and Dairy Administration (FDA) ruled that chain restaurants would be required to reveal the nutritional content of their proposed meals and snacks. Although a survey conducted by US-based mobile health source WebMD said diners were thankful to have access to the information, few studies have tackled the question of whether the labeling really does work, say the researchers. The study was published in the journal Appetite. – AFP Relaxnews