Would you drink that Coke if it meant 50 min. of exercise to burn it off?

Some people count calories and pay close attention to food and drink labels, others don’t at all. But if the labels reflected nutritional information in more practical terms, like how long it would take or how many miles for you to work it off by jogging, would that make a difference on consumption? Based on […]

Some people count calories and pay close attention to food and drink labels, others don’t at all. But if the labels reflected nutritional information in more practical terms, like how long it would take or how many miles for you to work it off by jogging, would that make a difference on consumption?

Based on a new study by Sara Bleich, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the American Journal of Public Health, it would.

Researchers posted signs next to the soda and juice in Baltimore corner stores that read: “Did you know that working off a bottle of soda or fruit juice takes about 50 minutes of running?” or “Did you know that working off a bottle of soda or fruit juice takes about five miles of walking?” (And, long as those distances and times may seem, they may even underestimate the magnitude of the metabolic insult of liquid sugar.)

The study didn’t go so far as putting this info on the actually labels, but it actually worked because sales of juice and soda products went down. The issue with the study is that people come in all different sizes and have different metabolisms, so the conversions can’t be entirely accurate for everyone. But Bleich thinks the positive results would be valuable regardless because most people really have no clue how to keep track of caloric values and how that fits into what their daily intake each day should be. Plus, it’s a challenge even for the ones who do.

“Let’s say you do know that you need to take in about 2,000 calories a day—which most American’s don’t know,” Bleich said. “Let’s say that a hamburger at McDonald’s has 250 calories. To figure out the percent that 250 represents of 2,000 is tough, mentally. Most people can’t do that, and they certainly can’t do it quickly when they’re trying to place an order.”

The menu-labeling provisions of the Affordable Care Act require chain restaurants to provide calorie information on their menus and menu boards, but it’s too late for anything to be passed in terms of exercise calculations. But, it’s not too late for restaurant chains or food companies looking to voluntarily take on a progressive public-health image to throw in some of this other info.