April 17, 2017 – Calorie changes in large chain restaurants from 2008 to 2015
No prior studies examining changes in the calorie content of chain restaurants have included national data before and after passage of federal menu labeling legislation, required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act. This paper describes trends in calories available in large U.S. chain restaurants in 2008 and 2012 to 2015 using data were obtained from the MenuStat project (2012 to 2015) and from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (2008). This analysis included 44 of the 100 largest U.S. restaurants which are available in all years of the data (2008 and 2012–2015) (N = 19,391 items). Generalized linear models were used to examine 1) per-item calorie changes from 2008 to 2015 among items on the menu in all years and 2) mean calories in new items in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 compared to items on the menu in 2008 only. We found that Among items common to the menu in all years, overall calories declined from 327 kcal in 2008 to 318 kcal in 2015 (p-value for trend = 0.03). No differences in mean calories among menu items newly introduced in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 relative to items only on the menu in 2008 were found. These results suggest that the federal menu labeling mandate (to be implemented in May 2017) appears to be influencing restaurant behavior towards lower average calories for menu items.