How Many Calories Should A Cat Eat To Lose Weight Is Ignorance Bliss or Would You Rather Know?

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Is Ignorance Bliss or Would You Rather Know?

What if the next time you open your menu at your favorite restaurant, the nutritional information – calories, fat, sodium, etc. – are they listed right there for you to consider? Would you still order Houston’s Grilled Chicken Salad (34 grams of fat) or Macaroni Grill’s Salmon (1160 calories, 25 grams of fat and 1240 mg of sodium!)? How about Chili’s Chocolate Molten Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream (1270 calories and 62 grams of fat)? Are you surprised by these numbers? Or do you prefer not to know?

New labeling mandates going into effect this year require restaurants with 20 or more outlets operating under the same name to provide nutritional information on their menus.

Why does the government think it’s important for you to know? Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food, cites “the huge obesity problem in this country which is due in part to excessive calorie consumption outside the home.”

Being overweight, as most of us know, comes with its own problems, such as an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer. In fact, obesity is on its way to overtaking tobacco as the number one preventable cause of death in the United States.

Today, 63% of American adults are overweight or obese. If we keep packing, obesity will cost the United States an estimated $344 billion in medical costs by 2018.

Are you starting to see the domino effect here? Weight, there’s more.

Obese patients spend an average of $1,429 (42%) more annually on their medical care than people of a healthy weight. Health economist Eric Finkelstein, co-author of The Fattening of America, says medical costs won’t go down unless Americans “get slimmer by improving their diet and exercise patterns.”

So will the new nutrition labeling requirements help? Proponents, myself included, believe that if you know what’s in your food, you’re more likely to make better choices about what you put in your mouth and, therefore, stand a better chance of avoiding the obesity trap. However, many restaurants fear that if you know the nutritional truth, you won’t return.

Houston’s, a popular restaurant chain with 30 locations across the United States, apparently believes you can’t handle the truth. Instead of reprinting its menus to include nutritional information, the chain is changing its name. Right; Houston is renaming 11 of its locations under the new Hillstone name, giving up 34 years of brand equity in its name to get around the new law. That way, customers can continue to enjoy their spinach dip and ribs without the burden of knowing what the calorie cost is.

So I ask you again: Is ignorance bliss or would you rather know?

Maybe you think all this government intervention is just too much. But what if it really could save lives, not to mention millions (billions) of our taxpayer dollars. Let’s look at two cases.

When the seat belt legislation went into effect in 1984, you will recall that critics argued heatedly about the restrictions on our civil liberties. People were up in arms about the government telling us what to do in our cars. Well, statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that seat belt legislation has reduced the number of traffic injuries by 45% and traffic deaths by 50%. And for a country that can’t afford it, annual medical costs from accidents total about $11 billion, rising to $70 billion when you factor in lost productivity. Imagine what these costs would be without seat belt laws.

On the other hand, how effective has tobacco legislation been? Cigarette advertising on TV and radio was banned in 1970, when about 50% of Americans smoked. Warning labels on cigarette packaging first appeared 46 years ago and, yes, we have seen a steady decline in smoking over the past four decades. Today, 20% of Americans still smoke; while still a significant number, it is less than half of those who smoked in the 1970s. (The FDA has proposed new, larger warning labels designed to cover 50 percent of the package. Will they have a bigger effect on reducing smoking?)

But cigarettes and chocolate cake aren’t nearly the same thing… are they? Sugar has also been shown to be addictive, and despite the “funny” image of a sugary dessert, too much sugar can lead to serious health risks.

Perhaps something truly miraculous will happen with the new menu labeling; perhaps food companies and restaurants – faced with new labeling laws and better informed consumers – will provide healthier options. This would be a reason to go out to dinner and celebrate.

What do you think?

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