Does nutrition and calorie information on restaurant menus lead to healthier
food choices?

New cancer prevention study is among 66 new research projects worth $24 million announced today by the Canadian Cancer Society

TORONTO, May 5 /CNW/ - A new study, funded by the Canadian Cancer Society, will help determine whether people make healthier food choices in restaurants if calories and other nutrients are listed on menus. Healthy diets, being active and maintaining a healthy body weight may reduce the incidence of cancer by up to 35%. Poor diet, being overweight or obese are thought to contribute to a large number of cancers, including cancers of the breast, colon, kidney, stomach, lung and uterus.

This is one of 66 new research projects worth $24 million announced today by the Canadian Cancer Society. The projects cover a broad spectrum of cancer research, from prevention to genetic studies to drug development to palliative care.

    About the nutrition and cancer prevention study

Dr David Hammond, a researcher at the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact and a faculty member at the University of Waterloo, is leading the nutrition study: "We consume an increasing amount of fat, salt and calories outside the home, and consumers have little or no idea about the nutritional content of what they are eating," he says. "They may be shocked at what they find out." Dr Hammond's team will receive $276,000 from the Canadian Cancer Society over three years to carry out the research.

Watch Dr. Hammond talk about his research project here:

"Being overweight or obese is an important risk factor for cancer and more Canadians are becoming obese every year," says Dr Christine Williams, director of research for the Canadian Cancer Society. "Providing basic nutrition information on menus is an important step towards making it easier for Canadians to make healthier choices," she says.

The study has two distinct parts:

    -   Testing whether adding calorie information to restaurant menus and
        display menus at fast food outlets affects the food choices of
        student and faculty on the University of Waterloo campus.

    -   An experimental study in which more than 600 adults from the
        Kitchener-Waterloo area will order from menus with different types of
        calorie and nutrition information to examine what type of nutrition
        information is most effective at influencing food choice and

Findings of the study will be available in two years and will inform government policy. Several U.S. states, including California and Oregon, as well as New York City, already have laws in place requiring restaurants to disclose calorie and nutritional information. Current Canadian law requires only that pre-packaged foods sold in stores be labelled with nutritional information, but this is not the case for food sold in restaurants and fast food outlets.

Very little research has been done previously to show the impact of nutritional listings on menus. However, evidence from pre-packaged food studies shows that it does help consumers to make better food choices. "There is no magic bullet, but even small adjustments on a daily basis add up to huge changes over a lifetime," Dr Hammond says. "What we are trying to do is provide the evidence to policy-makers for regulations that have the potential to influence food decisions millions of Canadians make when they eat out. Whatever we can do to help them make healthier choices and reduce the increasing rates of obesity will also help reduce cancer risk."

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that people eat a variety of vegetables and fruit every day. In 2008, less than 45 per cent of Canadians over the age of 12 consumed more than five servings a day.

Prevalence of unhealthy weight is increasing in all ages. Over 60% of Canadian adults are either overweight or obese. About 26% of children and youth are considered overweight or obese.

For a complete list of the new Canadian Cancer Society-funded research grants across the country, visit

    Highlights of other new Canadian Cancer Society research projects

Dr Anita Koushik, Montreal, $498,997. As one of the most deadly and "silent" cancers in women, more needs to be done to find out what women can do to lower their risk for ovarian cancer. Dr Koushik's team will interview a group of Montreal women, some with ovarian cancer and some without, about lifestyle choices which may influence cancer development, particularly vitamin D usage, a possible cancer inhibitor, and use of compounds that regulate inflammation, such as aspirin and talcum powder.

Dr Johann Hitzler, Toronto, $427,500. Children with Down syndrome are 100 times more likely than the average child to develop a blood cancer called myeloid leukemia, and many are born with pre-leukemic cells already in their blood. Dr Hitzler will investigate how pre-leukemic cells become leukemic and how they may be eliminated in order to understand how to prevent the disease from developing.

Dr Francine Durocher, Laval, $448,325. In the search for more markers that can show who is likely to get breast cancer, Dr Durocher plans to investigate how genes in high-risk families from Quebec may be differently "spliced" or combined to produce different proteins that could lead to cancer. If scientists can identify specific kinds of "alternative splicing" that run in families with breast cancer, it could be another tool to better pinpoint who is most at risk of actually getting cancer, and provide another tool for screening and target for treatments.

Dr Harvey Chochinov, Winnipeg, $136,608. This study will investigate the impact of providing a "life history" to health care providers about their end-of-life (palliative) patients, and its effect on helping them connect with and maintain the dignity of patients. His team will interview palliative patients and their family members to collect information they feel their healthcare providers need to know, and then interview staff to determine what impact that knowledge has on the care they provide.

Dr William Jia, Vancouver, $344,172. This study builds on his pioneering work showing that the herpes simplex virus can be used to kill brain cancer cells. He will tackle this problem through the creation of two types of genetically-engineered herpes simplex virus, built to kill tumour cells more effectively without harming the normal tissues.

    About the Prevention Initiative

The Canadian Cancer Society believes that about half of cancers can be prevented. This is the second year of the Society's special Cancer Prevention Initiative. Research projects under this initiative will advance the field of cancer prevention research by identifying interventions against modifiable risk factors and conditions. These include behaviours, occupational exposures or environmental conditions that may be changed to reduce the risk of developing cancer.

The Canadian Cancer Society will invest approximately $3 million a year in this initiative.

    About Propel

The Propel Centre for Population Health Impact is committed to preventing cancer and chronic disease by improving health at a population level, and reducing the impact of cancer on people affected by it. A partnership between the Canadian Cancer Society and the University of Waterloo, Propel's vision is to help transform the health of populations in Canada and around the world. A team of more than 40 scientists and staff collaborates with leaders in science, policy and practice across Canada and around the world to jointly plan, conduct, and act on studies that lead to improvements in policies and programs, and guide social change.

    About the Society

The Canadian Cancer Society fights cancer by doing everything we can to prevent cancer, save lives and support people living with cancer. Join the fight! Go to to find out how you can help. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website at or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888 939-3333.

SOURCE Canadian Cancer Society (National Office)

For further information: For further information: Alexa Giorgi, Canadian Cancer Society, (416) 934-5681,

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