Has a nutrition label ever stopped anyone from eating more than one potato chip?
Americans have questioned the effect of calorie labels on weight since 1990, when the FDA made it mandatory for companies to include a Nutrition Facts label on processed-food packaging.
The American Medical Association called for a ban on trans fats following a 2006 law that required that the artery-clogging ingredient be listed on the Nutrition Facts label. Trans fats have since disappeared from most processed foods. A study presented this week at the Obesity Journal Symposium in Boston found that calorie labeling in university cafeterias helped reduce weight gain in students by 7.7 pounds.
Current obesity and diabetes rates, however, show that the Nutrition Facts label hasn’t had the same impact on salt and sugar that it did on trans fats. The effectiveness of New York City’s calorie labeling law, which in 2008 mandated that restaurants display calorie information, has yet to be substantiated.
One study claims that showing people how much they would have to exercise to work off the food they eat is a more effective wasy of stopping them from overeating than is calorie information. Of course, this data would be difficult to put on a label; how many calories are burned depends on a person’s body mass.
But to give you an idea of how terrible our food choices can be, we’ve crunched the numbers based on the average 166-pound American woman. From a can of Coke to the McRib, here are 10 junk foods and the estimated amount of exercise you’d need to do to burn them off.