Saturday, December 17, 2011

Run for 50 minutes or drink a soda?

Given the choice, would you rather run for 50 minutes, or drink a sugared soda? Obviously, I would choose the run, but an interesting new study in the American Public Health Association (H/T NPR and Gawker) tested this question using signs posted in a Baltimore neighborhood. The researchers posted one of three different signs on the soda coolers to educate people prior to their purchase. The signs would inform them that 1) each soda had 250 calories, 2) each soda accounted for 11% of their total diet of calories for the day, or 3) each soda requires 50 minutes of running to burn off the calories. They also performed a control with no sign. Guess which one resulted in the biggest drop in soda purchases?

All reduced sales, but only one was statistically significant, which was the warning about running, dropping sales by 50%. The percent calorie allowance and the sign with the number of calories dropped sales by 40% (neither statistically significant). The same authors (S Bleich Pubmed references) have done other work regarding increasing public awareness about caloric content and the effect on caloric intake. They found that the public wants to know more about calories at restaurants, and it seems like it might be a useful strategy to get people to moderate their diets, although, not all the science finds this strategy effective.

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