Help researchers find out how calorie labelling affects drinking

The UK’s growing obesity crisis is never far from the news these days, with much discussion of what can be done to help consumers choose a healthier diet and reduce their calorie intake. The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) made headlines in January with the suggestion that ‘activity equivalent calorie labelling’ could be one way forward.

However, under current regulations, alcoholic drinks are not even required to display their calorie content numerically, preventing consumers from making healthy, informed decisions about what they drink. Alcohol is a major source of calories for people in the UK, with adults who drink getting 10% of their daily calorie intake from it. Providing calorie information on alcoholic drinks could have the dual benefits of cutting calorie intake and encouraging more responsible consumption, reducing alcohol-related harm.

In order to explore the potential of calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks to counter both obesity and alcohol misuse, RSPH is seeking a restaurant partner to conduct a simple experiment.

The aim of the experiment is to see what effect different forms of calorie labelling have on what customers choose to drink. This will be done by splitting customers into three groups and providing each group with a different version of the restaurant’s drinks menu:

  • drinks menu 1 contains no calorie information;
  • drinks menu 2 contains calorie information in numerical form only;
  • drinks menu 3 includes calorie information in numerical form and activity equivalence.

Over the course of at least a month, the average alcohol calories consumed by adults in each group will be recorded. This will enable us to compare the groups and see what effect the different forms of calorie labelling had on drinking behaviour.

RSPH would provide the modified drinks menus and analyse the results; the partner restaurant would just need to split their customers into three areas and record their consumption, and will be recognised in any publication of the research.

RSPH would also work with the business to plan the experiment and be on call to advise throughout. It would also do all the number crunching, and would provide and pay for any new resources required. It would also create and provide a quick and easy system for the restaurant to record what their customers are drinking.

If you are interested in partnering with RSPH on this research, please contact Ed Morrow at [email protected] or on 020 7265 7236.

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