United States

Restaurant Chains Shave Off Calories: Study

Big chain restaurants in the United States are cutting back on extra calories in new items they introduce, a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found.

Items introduced in 2013 – mostly salads and sandwiches– had 60 fewer calories, on average, (about 12 percent) than items on the menu in 2012, according to the study. New beverages and kids' items also saw a decrease of calories.

The study, published in the October issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine, is based on data from the MenuStat project, a survey of menu items in 66 of the 100 largest U.S. restaurant chains, and was conducted over 2012 and 2013. The analysis looked at fast-food companies like McDonald’s to full service restaurants like IHOP and examined over 19,000 restaurant items.

The study found that overall, average calories didn't change on chain restaurant menus. Most of the changes were to items that don't make up the base of a restaurant's business, so there wasn't much change to signature burger and pizza items.

Sarah N. Bleich, a healthy policy researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who led the study, said the voluntary decrease in calories is most likely a result of federal laws requiring restaurants to release their calorie numbers.

Still said the results of the study are significant because about one in three Americans eat daily at a fast-food restaurant, and if each person ate 60 fewer calories per visit, "the impact on obesity could be significant," she said.

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