Menu calo­rie counts will worsen eat­ing dis­or­ders, warn char­i­ties

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By He­lena Hor­ton

CALO­RIE counts on restau­rant menus will fuel eat­ing dis­or­ders, char­i­ties and MPs have warned the Gov­ern­ment.

A num­ber of char­i­ties and MPs have voiced their concern in a let­ter to The Sun­day Tele­graph over the pro­posed manda­tory calo­rie count pol­icy.

They ar­gue that it is un­help­ful for those suf­fer­ing from eat­ing dis­or­ders and can hin­der those in re­cov­ery, as it causes them to “ob­sess” over calo­ries.

A con­sul­ta­tion on the is­sue closed on Fri­day, with the Depart­ment of Health and So­cial Care due to make a de­ci­sion on the pol­icy shortly.

An­drew Rad­ford, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the eat­ing dis­or­der char­ity Beat, said: “Re­quir­ing calo­rie counts on menus risks caus­ing great dis­tress for peo­ple suf­fer­ing from or vul­ner­a­ble to eat­ing dis­or­ders.”

Ellen Maloney, a Beat am­bas­sador first ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal for anorexia aged 12 but now in re­cov­ery, said that manda­tory calo­rie counts would force peo­ple like her to “ob­sess”.

SIR – We be­lieve that pro­pos­als to in­tro­duce manda­tory calo­rie counts on menus will be in­ef­fec­tive at re­duc­ing obe­sity rates, and dam­ag­ing to the men­tal and phys­i­cal health of those suf­fer­ing with eat­ing dis­or­ders.

The premise be­hind the Depart­ment for Health and So­cial Care en­forc­ing these calo­rie counts is weak. Stud­ies sug­gest they do not even achieve what they in­tend to: re­duc­ing calo­rie con­sump­tion for over­weight in­di­vid­u­als. Cur­rent ev­i­dence sug­gests that calo­rie in­for­ma­tion re­duces in­take only among in­di­vid­u­als who are al­ready a healthy weight (es­pe­cially women).

Re­search sug­gests that calo­rie counts neg­a­tively af­fect those with eat­ing dis­or­ders. For ex­am­ple, those with anorexia ner­vosa or bu­limia ner­vosa are likely to re­duce their con­sump­tion sig­nif­i­cantly, while par­tic­i­pants with binge eat­ing dis­or­der are likely to in­crease their con­sump­tion. These con­cerns have also been raised by peo­ple with eat­ing dis­or­ders and the NGOs that rep­re­sent them.

This area is un­der-re­searched, but what ev­i­dence there is makes for wor­ry­ing read­ing. The Gov­ern­ment has com­pletely over­looked a vul­ner­a­ble group.

The Depart­ment for Health and So­cial Care should not en­force calo­rie counts on menus due to their in­ef­fec­tive­ness and po­ten­tial harm to those with eat­ing dis­or­ders. Jane Smith

Anorexia & Bu­limia Care Marg Oaten Co-founder, SEED Eat­ing Dis­or­ders Daniel Pryor

Direc­tor of Pro­grammes, Adam Smith In­sti­tute

An­drea Jenkyns MP (Con)

Tim Far­ron MP (Lib Dem) Anne Main MP (Con) Crispin Blunt MP (Con) Chris­tine Jar­dine MP (Lib Dem) and 7 oth­ers; see tele­graph.co.uk

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