Calorie counts on menus could prevent chronic diseases, save health care costs

Full implementation of a 2018 law requiring major chain restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus could prevent 136,000 new cases of heart disease, 100,000 new cases of type 2 diabetes, and 28,000 early deaths over the average American’s lifetime, as well as potentially save billions of dollars in health care costs, according to a new study.

Earlier studies have shown that displaying calorie counts on menus leads diners to choose meals with fewer calories. The new study, by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and other institutions, simulated the impacts on population health and health care costs if 1 million American adult diners cut their calorie intake as a result of calorie labeling on menus.

“Part of the attraction of eating out is pleasure, and our model assumes people will still treat themselves, but the experience can be healthier overall if both diners and the restaurant industry make changes,” said study co-author Thomas Gaziano, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management and a core faculty member in Harvard Chan School’s Center for Health Decision Science, in a June 11, 2020 article in Business Insider.

Read the Business Insider article: The US law requiring calorie counts on menus is expected to save tens of thousands of lives and over $10 billion in healthcare costs, research shows