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The new study included 300 people, aged 18 to 30, who were given either a menu without calorie labels, a menu with calorie labels or a menu with labels for the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn off the calories in the food.
Brisk walking was chosen as the form of exercise because it is something that nearly everyone can relate to, said lead researcher Ashlei James, a graduate student at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
The findings were scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the Experimental Biology meeting in Boston. Data and conclusions from research presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
As an example of the information given to the participants, a woman would have to walk briskly for about two hours to burn off the calories in a quarter-pound double cheeseburger, the researchers said.
"All menus contained the same food and beverage options, which included burgers, chicken sandwiches and tenders, salad, fries, desserts, soda, and water," James said.
The people given the menu listing the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories ordered and consumed fewer calories than those given either of the other menus.
However, among those who received the other two menus -- with or without calorie labels -- there was no difference in the number of calories ordered and consumed, the investigators found.
"This study suggests there are benefits to displaying exercise minutes to a group of young men and women," study senior author Meena Shah said in a news release from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. "We can't generalize to a population over age 30, so we will further investigate this in an older and more diverse group."
"This is the first study to look at the effects of displaying minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories on the calories ordered and consumed," Shah added.
-- Robert Preidt
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