How Much Exercise to Burn Off a Burger?
By Chris Kaiser, Cardiology Editor, MedPage Today, Published: April 24, 2013
Menus displaying the amount of exercise required to burn off calories in a meal had some impact on food choice, researchers found.
Individuals given menus with the exercise information not only ordered food with fewer calories compared with those given menus without such information (763 versus 902 kcal, P=0.002), they also consumed fewer calories (673 versus 770, P=0.01), according to Ashlei James, a graduate student at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and colleagues.
However, there was no difference in calories ordered (P=0.15) and consumed (P=0.19) between those whose menus had exercise information and those whose menus contained calorie counts, James reported at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting in Boston.
Similarly, menus with and without calorie counts did not lead to differences in calories ordered or consumed (P=0.09 and P=0.21, respectively), the researchers found.
"This is the first study to look at the effects of displaying minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories on the calories ordered and consumed," said senior researcher Meena Shah, PhD, in a statement.
She noted that the volunteers were quite surprised at the amount of exercise required to burn calories. For example, a quarter-pound double cheeseburger requires 2 hours of brisk walking for a woman to burn the calories.
As more restaurants have begun to include calorie information on their menus, voluntarily or by law, consumers have become more calorie conscious about their choice of menu items. "The majority of studies, however, show that providing information on calorie content does not lead to fewer calories ordered or consumed," researchers noted.
They said that a more effective strategy is needed to encourage people to order and consume fewer calories from restaurant menus.
Matching the exercise duration required to burn calories with food items on a menu might just be the angle nutritionists would welcome, they said.
Despite the different labels, all menus contained the same food and beverage options.
The researchers randomly divided a cohort of volunteers into three groups:
• Those with menus that displayed no calorie information
• Those with menus that displayed the amount of calories associated with each item
• Those with menus that displayed the amount of exercise it would take to burn off the calories in each meal
Volunteers' ages ranged from 18 to 30. Researchers chose "brisk walking" because it is an activity that "nearly everyone can relate to," James said in a statement.
James and colleagues concluded that the study suggested potential benefits associated with displaying exercise minutes to a group of young men and women. However, they cautioned about generalizing the data to an older group of people.
Primary source: Experimental Biology
James A, et al "Walking needed to burn food calories, on calories ordered and consumed in young adults" EB2013; Abstract 367.2