Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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February 22, 2010

What’s on the menu? Calorie bill would help fight obesity

CHARLESTON — A renewed effort is afoot in the Senate to let consumers know many calories are embedded in that Big Mac or Whopper.

Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, a surgeon, acknowledges the calorie posting bill isn’t the panacea for attacking West Virginia’s obesity problem.

“This is not the only solution,” he said Monday.

“There are a multitude of solutions relating to us eating better and getting more exercise. This is not the magic bullet.”

Yet, he said, there is ample evidence that shows when calories were posted in New York City restaurants, 40 percent of the diners tended to ingest 50 to 60 fewer calories.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is significant in terms of long-term changes,” Foster said.

“It also affects what people serve, the items that are offered. You see that in New York City as well as other places.”

Restaurants tend to offer more nutritious meals, following the mandate two decades ago that groceries post the calorie content of food items, he said.

Foster noted that calorie posting is part of pending federal health care reform legislation.

Given the interest sparked a year ago, and the follow-up pursuit in the House of Delegates, Foster said he decided to offer a companion bill just before the deadline.

“There is good evidence this is one way of making people aware of what they’re eating,” he said. “They will tend to eat fewer calories.”

Obesity is a major health problem across America, figuring in a number of diseases, such as diabetes, and in West Virginia “we’re one of the very worst,” the physician said.

“This is one of those culture-changing opportunities, just like clean indoor air has been over the last few years, decreasing all over the country the incidence of smoking,” Foster said.

“We are going to continue to talk about it,” he said.

“My guess is, 10 years from now people will wonder why we didn’t do it before.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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