Adolescents who saw printed signs explaining the number of miles they would need to walk to burn off the calories in a sugary drink were more likely to leave the store with a lower calorie beverage, a healthier beverage, or a smaller size beverage, according to new Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health research.
And those healthier choices persisted weeks after the signs came down.
A report on the findings, published online October 16 in the American Journal of Public Health, adds to the growing evidence suggesting that simply showing calorie counts on products and menus is not enough to break Americans from their bad eating habits. With calorie counts expected on menus in chain restaurants with more than 20 outlets by early next year the Affordable Care Act, the researchers say policymakers may need to rethink how that information is communicated.
“People do not really understand what it means to say a typical soda has 250 calories,” says study leader Dr. Sara N. Bleich, an associate professor in the department of health policy and management at the Bloomberg School. “If you are going to give people calorie information, there is probably a better way to do it. What our research found is that when you explain calories in an easily understandable way such as how many miles of walking needed to burn them off, you can encourage behavior change.”