MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
John Cawley PhD
Professor of policy analysis and management
College of Human Ecology
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: The background is that diet-related chronic disease has increased dramatically in the US and many other economically developed countries. For example, the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. has roughly tripled since 1960, and the prevalence of Type II diabetes has also increased significantly. As a result, policymakers are looking for ways to facilitate healthy eating. One possible approach is to require that restaurants list on their menus the number of calories in each menu item. Several cities such as New York City and Philadelphia passed such laws, and in May of this year (2018) a nationwide law took effect requiring such calorie labels on the menus of chain restaurants. However, the effects of this information is not well known.
To answer that question, we conducted randomized controlled field experiments in two sit-down, full-service restaurants. Parties of guests were randomly assigned to either the control group that got the regular menu without calorie information, or the treatment group that got the same menus but with calorie counts on the menu. We then documented what items people ordered and then surveyed the patrons after their dinner. Overall we collected data from over 5,000 patrons.