(HealthDay News) – Although the Affordable Care Act required restaurants to post nutritional information, the energy and sodium content of menu items at chain restaurants did not change significantly from 2010–2011 despite industry pledges to offer healthier foods, according to a study published online Oct. 3 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Helen W. Wu, PhD, from the University of California in Davis, and Roland Sturm, PhD, from RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, CA, tracked changes in the energy and sodium content of main entrees at 213 chain restaurants in the United States between spring 2010, when a menu labeling requirement took effect as part of the Affordable Care Act, and spring 2011.
The researchers found no significant change in mean energy and sodium content. Of the few restaurants that made significant changes, not all were healthier. Overall, mean sodium fell by 70mg in added compared with removed entrees at the 75th percentile. Mean energy declined by 40kcal on children’s menu items at fast food restaurants.
“Industry marketing and pledges may create a misleading perception that restaurant menus are becoming substantially healthier, but both healthy and unhealthy menu changes can occur simultaneously,” Wu and Sturm conclude. “Our study found no meaningful changes overall across a one-year time period.”