How Many Calories are in that Big Mac?

big macWould you be less likely to drink that Coca-Cola if you knew you had to run 4.2 miles to burn it off rather than simply knowing that it contains 210 calories? Scientists are calling for exercise data to be printed on packaging rather than for just the caloric information to be there.

They explain that the caloric information really doesn’t translate into understanding for most people – but that knowing how much exercise it would take to get rid of the drink or food would.

The researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore have found that teenagers who were given the exercise information were more likely to select healthier drinks or smaller bottles. The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, adds to the evidence that caloric information is ignored by most people.

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As the study lead Professor Sara Bleich said, “People don’t really understand what it means to say a typical soda has 250 calories. If you’re going to give people calorie information, there’s probably a better way to do it. What our research found is that when you explain calories in an easily understandable way such as how many miles of walking needed to burn them off, you can encourage behavior change.”

For their study, the researchers at Hopkins displayed signs in six shops in Baltimore that presented the facts about a 590ml bottle of fizzy drink. The sign explained that it would take 50 minutes of running or a five mile walk to burn off the drink. The scientists found that customers bought far more healthy drinks when the signs went up than they had been afterwards.


James Fishman has been involved in the world of online magazines for more than 15 years. He helped launch Sunstone Online and continues to improve the magazine as site editor and administrator. His writing focuses primarily business and technology. To be in touch with James, feel free to contact him at james[at]

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