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If you saw the high calorie count, you'd order it anyway: study

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If you knew that the cheesy beef burrito you were about to order was going to clock in at close to 1,000 calories, you might consider downsizing to a smaller version listed at 500 calories, right? A new study says no, you won't.

Researchers from Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Graduate Medical School and the public health department of Seattle and King County compared sales at seven Seattle-area fast food restaurants which had to comply with mandatory menu labelling laws to the sales at seven restaurants in the same chain in nearby cities without the law.

They found Taco Time consumers bought similar items and ate the same amount of calories regardless of whether labelling was in place or not.

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The findings undermine one of the major tenets in the public health drive to combat rising obesity rates. But the researchers suggest that other methods, such as highlighting healthier menu items, which Taco Time did before the Seattle menu legislation, may be working anyway.

"A simple logo identifying which foods are healthiest may be all it takes to convey that information to those consumers who wish to choose a healthier alternative," lead author Eric Finkelstein, Ph.D., associate professor of health services at Duke-NUS, wrote in a release. "The additional information appears not to have made a difference."

In other words, there's only so much engineering you can do with labelling.

Is it expecting too much to think that people visiting a fast food joint want anything other than a calorie-laden fix? Do calorie counts make any difference to you?

(Oh, and if you're planning to hit one of the chain's Canadian outlets for dinner tonight, here's what you're eating)

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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