30 May Do Calorie Labels Benefit Socioeconomic Disadvantaged?
Associate Professor, BSc(Hons) PhD
Head Obesity & Population Health | Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute
President Australian & New Zealand Obesity Society
MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study?
Professor Peeters: The context for this study is that ‘point of sale menu labelling’ policies in fast food restaurants have some evidence of generally decreasing how many calories are consumed by people who go there. They may also lead the companies to reformulate their food to become slightly healthier. The key finding of our study is that those from more disadvantaged/ poorer backgrounds are unlikely to have a direct benefit from ‘point of sale menu labelling’ policies in fast food restaurants through a decreased number of calories consumed.
MedicalResearch: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Professor Peeters: The findings were unknown. This question has not been previously explored. The findings could have either been that those from more disadvantaged/ poorer backgrounds had a similar benefit to their richer counterparts, or as we found that they were in fact unlikely to benefit.
We are interested in asking this question across a range of obesity prevention policies as the effect of most of these across different socio-economic groups is at present unknown.
MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Professor Peeters: Because there are potential health benefits from the introduction of ‘point of sale menu labelling’, which has been introduced in NSW and South Australia, it will be important to ensure that those Australians with lower health literacy, numeracy and general literacy and those living in less supportive environments are supported to also benefit. For clinicians this may include considering referral to community services that support shopping, food and nutrition education in those patients who are likely to benefit.
MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Professor Peeters: We only found 14 articles looking at this question. They were very diverse in quality and most were from the New York experience. Many more studies looking at this are needed before we can conclude on the best way to support benefit for those from more disadvantaged backgrounds.
ECO 2014 abstract:
Mandatory menu energy labelling and socioeconomic disparities in overweight and obesity
Danja Sarink, Anna Peeters, Rosanne Freak-Poli, Kathryn Backholer