Eating out in New York City will be a healthy affair

March 07, 2016

New York's City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced this week a decision by the Board of Health which will require chain restaurants in the city to permanently list calorie information on their menus.

The new regulation comes into effect on March 31st and applies to any chain restaurants operated in the city that has 15 or more outlets nationwide which equates to around 10 percent of all New York City restaurants.

This is the latest measure in a health policy aimed at enabling consumers to make an informed choice about their food.

It comes at a time when the developed world is facing an epidemic of overweight and obesity, with millions of New York City residents affected.

New York's Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden says obesity and diabetes are the only major health problems that are getting worse in New York City.

Dr. Frieden says the new regulation will help New Yorkers make healthier choices about what to eat, and live longer, healthier lives as a result.

The city's health officials say chain restaurants serve food that has been clearly associated with excess calories and obesity, and research shows that people who eat fast food regularly consume more calories than those who do not.

Even though many chain restaurants already provide calorific information on the internet, in brochures or on food wrappers or tray liners, the authorities want calorie information to be displayed on the menu so the diners can use the information as they order.

They say when people have access to calorie information, that nutrition information affects their selection of the food they buy, be it in restaurants or food stores.

The health department anticipates that the regulation could reduce the number of obese people by 150,000 over the next five years and prevent 30,000 cases of diabetes, but others have doubts and say a healthy lifestyle needs to focus on more than just calories.

Experts say people need to understand that what they eat is as important as how much they eat, and also follow an overall healthy lifestyle.

According to a Community Health Survey carried out in 2005, 54% percent of adults were overweight or obese.

Coronary heart disease age-adjusted death rates for women have dropped 26.9 percent since 1999. But, age-adjusted stroke death rates among women are down by only 23.7 percent, lower than the overall age-adjusted stroke death rate reduction and the age-adjusted stoke death rate reduction for men, which is 25.8 percent. The age-adjusted death rate for blacks is down 23.8 percent for coronary heart disease (compared to 25.6 percent for whites) and 20.3 percent for stroke (compared to 25 percent for whites.) These disparities in the outcomes for women and minority populations are echoed in the statistics for those living in certain parts of the country, such as the Stroke Belt in the South, and for those with lower income levels.

???These disparities are unacceptable,??? Jones said. ???We are actively seeking ways to better address these issues so that we can ensure that every person has the appropriate care they need to live a healthier, longer life.???

He said this will require reaching the American Heart Association goals for reducing the major modifiable risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Those include hypertension, high blood cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity and tobacco use. Because of progress in research, each of these risk factors can be controlled to goal levels for nearly everyone with either lifestyle changes alone or lifestyle combined with medications.

However, the data show that while there is progress on some of these risk factors, others are not being reduced nearly enough. The number of people with uncontrolled hypertension has fallen by 16 percent since the American Heart Association set its 25 percent 2010 strategic goals. The number of people with elevated blood cholesterol is down 19.2 percent and tobacco use is down 15.4 percent. Perhaps most alarming, the rate of physical inactivity has only declined by 2.5 percent and the prevalence rates for obesity and type II diabetes are actually increasing, and are appearing at earlier ages than ever before.

???We're working on this, but much more needs to be done,??? Jones pointed out. ???If we don't make a concerted effort to reduce these risks, we will lose the momentum we celebrate today. We will see our children developing heart disease earlier, experiencing early deaths or needing major medical care sooner. The financial and, more importantly, the emotional toll is too great.???

???We are pleased with the progress this new data shows, but we know we can do much more,??? Jones said. ???We need to continue to push for more research and new medical advances, along with improved adherence to our practice guidelines. Most importantly, we must make it a priority to institute lifestyle and behavior changes, and the patient-healthcare provider partnership that can control risk factors and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the first place.???