Restaurant Menus and Food Choices: The Big Disconnect

Perhaps you’ve noticed that some restaurants (read: fast food restaurants) provide nutritional information on their menus; calories, grams of fat, nutrients, etc.  While the decision to include nutritional information about a fast food meal may have been influenced by a number of external factors (e.g., bad press), public health social marketing professionals (the folks who develop campaigns to get you off the couch, wear a condom, eat right, take a walk, etc.) have seen this as a way to guide consumers toward better decisions about what to eat.

Sorry.  Researchers from Carnegie Mellon report that: “No matter how much calorie information is on the menu list, people still choose the food they like, not what’s supposed to be healthier.”  Even when restaurant patrons were given information about the appropriate number of calories to consume, nutritional information did not hold sway over taste preference.

Here’s what seems important to me: This study (posted on MSNBC.com) looked at patrons of two McDonalds restaurants in Manhattan.  I think we can agree that people who chose to eat lunch at McDonalds may not be representative of the larger population of folks who eat out.  Maybe it’s just fast foodies who aren’t influenced by the facts.  Bottom Line: Food choices are complex and rooted in culture, sensory experience and economics as much as they are in nutritional data.  If you find yourself in a fast food restaurant, your mind is probably made up.

 

Fish Oil Supplements and Prostate Cancer Redux

In an earlier post I took issue with a study, and the subsequent reporting on MSNBC, suggesting that eating fish or taking fish oil supplements to boost Omega 3 levels could increase the risk for prostate cancer.  The latest criticism of the study and the flawed conclusions that it spawned can be found in the most recent edition of Life Extension magazine.  Yes, this magazine is published by a supplement company of the same name but, and this is a very important “but”, the lengthy article is based on no less than 50 peer reviewed scientific studies.  In addition to extolling the benefits of Omega 3 in the diet (either through supplements or fish consumption), the article carefully dissects both the methods and conclusions of the study.  LIke all supplements, Omega 3 should only be taken in the context of a healthy diet and with the advice of a healthcare professional.  Take Home Message: An additional serving of salmon will not increase your risk of prostate cancer.