The effects of restaurant menu calorie labeling on hypothetical meal choices of females with disordered eating

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  • Funding information Research reported in this publication was supported by F31MH097450 and T32MH082761 awarded by the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as P30AG034546 awarded by the National Institute on Aging

Abstract

Concerns have been raised that obesity public policy measures may have harmful effects on individuals with eating disorders. However, little research has investigated this topic. We examined the impact of a popular obesity public policy, menu calorie labeling, on hypothetical food choices of women with disordered eating. Seven hundred sixteen adult females completed an online survey in which they were randomly assigned to receive a restaurant menu with or without calorie information listed. Participants selected foods representative of a meal they would choose to consume and answered questions on restaurant ordering and menu labeling. Participants completed the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (Fairburn & Beglin, 1994) to assess global eating pathology. Diagnoses of anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED) were also derived from this measure. Generalized linear modeling examined the impact of menu label condition, disordered eating, and the menu label by disordered eating interaction on hypothetical food selection and related variables. When disordered eating was examined continuously, menu labeling did not differentially affect food selections of those with elevated disordered eating (p = .45). However, when examined by eating disorder diagnosis, participants with AN or BN ordered significantly fewer (p < .001) and participants with BED ordered significantly more (p = .001) calories in the menu label versus no label condition. Menu labeling may decrease the calories ordered among individuals with AN or BN and increase calories ordered among individuals with BED.

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