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Calorie-labelling: does it impact on calorie purchase in catering outlets and the views of young adults?


Calorie-labelling of meals has been suggested as an antiobesity measure, but evidence for impact is scarce. It might have a particular value for young adults, when weight gain is most rapid. A systematic literature review and a meta-analysis was performed to assess the effect of calorie-labelling on calories purchased. Seven studies met the inclusion and quality criteria of which six provided data allowing a meta-analysis. Three reported significant changes, all reductions in calories purchased (−38.1 to −12.4 kcal). Meta-analysis showed no overall effect, −5.8 kcal (95% confidence interval (CI)=−19.4 to 7.8 kcal) but a reduction of −124.5 kcal (95% CI=−150.7 to 113.8 kcal) among those who noticed the calorie-labelling (30–60% of customers). A questionnaire, to gauge views on calorie-labelling, was devised and sent to young adults in higher education: 1440 young adults (mean age 20.3 (s.d.=2.9) years) completed the survey. Nearly half (46%) said they would welcome calorie information in catering settings and on alcoholic drinks. Females opposing to calorie-labelling were heavier to those who did not (64.3 kg vs 61.9 kg, P=0.03; BMI=22.4 kg m2 vs 21.7 kg m2, P=0.02). In conclusion, the limited evidence supports a valuable effect from clearly visible calorie-labelling for obesity prevention, and it appears an attractive strategy to many young adults.

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Correspondence to M E J Lean.

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Nikolaou, C., Hankey, C. & Lean, M. Calorie-labelling: does it impact on calorie purchase in catering outlets and the views of young adults?. Int J Obes 39, 542–545 (2015).

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