Calories on restaurant menus will fuel young peoples eating disorders charities and

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Mandatory calorie counts on restaurant menus will fuel young peoples’ eating disorders, charities and MPs have warned the Government.Leading eating disorder charity Beat has told the Sunday Telegraph its concerns about the proposal, arguing that it would cause “great distress” for those suffering from eating disorders.Other charities SEED Eating Disorder Care and Anorexia and Bulimia Care, as well as MPs including Andrea Jenkyns, Tim Farron and Crispin Blunt have also voiced their concerns in a letter to this newspaper.They argue that forcing all restaurants and cafes to include calorie information is unhelpful for those suffering from eating disorders and can hinder those in recovery, as it causes them to “obsess” over calories.They write: “We believe that proposals to introduce mandatory calorie counts on menus will be ineffective at reducing obesity rates and damaging to the mental and physical health of those suffering with eating disorders.”A consultation on the issue closed on Friday, with the Department of Health and Social Care due to make a decision on the policy shortly. While larger chains such as Wetherspoons and Pizza Express display calorie counts for some of their menu items, smaller businesses on the whole do not.Beat’s Chief Executive Andrew Radford told the Telegraph: “Requiring calorie counts on menus risks causing great distress for people suffering from or vulnerable to eating disorders, since evidence shows that calorie labelling exacerbates eating disorders of all kinds.”Ellen Maloney, a Beat ambassador who was first hospitalised for anorexia nervosa aged 12, said that mandatory calorie counts on menus would force people in recovery from eating disorders to “obsess” over the calorie content.She explained: “I think it puts the emphasis on the wrong thing, it forces people to obsess over numbers which is not the most important thing”For me, I’ve been in recovery for a few years now, but when I see numbers it’s all I can think about. If there’s a 5 calorie difference that will decide what I choose to eat. That’s really unhelpful information.”It makes recovery really difficult as the goal of recovery is to listen to your body and make choices based on what you’re hungry for and not obsessing over calories. That’s what healthy eating is about as well – when you go out for a meal it’s a treat, your choice on a one-off occasion shouldn’t be about calories”Marg Oaten, co-founder of SEED Eating Disorder Support Services, said: “As mum of a daughter who developed an eating disorder at the age of 10 years old, I know first-hand the devastating outcomes, when she was introduced to calorie counts this fuelled her eating disorder to heights I never dreamed possible. She almost lost her life 4 times.“She would scrutinise calories and fat content of food for hours upon hours.“We watched as she was dying before our eyes and were powerless to do anything about it.   “We don’t need calorific content on food packaging – advise on nutritional wellbeing would be much safer.”The letter adds: “Although high-quality evidence is still emerging in this area, available research suggests calorie counts negatively impact those with eating disorders. For example those with Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa are likely to  significantly reduce calorie consumption and participants with Binge Eating Disorder are likely to increase calorie consumption in the menu label versus no label condition. These concerns have also been raised by people with eating disorders and the NGOs that represent them.”  Daniel Pryor, Head of Programmes at the Adam Smith Institute, said: “A mandatory calorie count on every menu item in the country will make life much harder for individuals suffering from or at risk of developing eating disorders without making any significant impact on obesity rates.”Research suggests that calorie counts tend to exacerbate conditions such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders while having little effect on the food choices of overweight people.”Those with eating disorders particularly benefit from having the choice to eat at restaurants that don’t provide a constant reminder of calorie consumption, yet their voice has been sidelined in the policy debate.”“Defenders of mandatory calorie counts claim that they simply provide consumers with more information, but forget that sometimes people prefer to dine without having to focus on exactly how many calories they’re consuming. Many establishments voluntarily provide detailed nutritional information, and having a range of options is the best situation.”A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Calorie information is already widely available in supermarkets but only in some restaurants, cafes and takeaways. Given that around a quarter of our calories come from food on the go, it’s right that we look at clear calorie counts on menus.  “Our priority is to protect children from ill health and the NHS is on track to treat 95 per cent of all urgent cases of eating disorders in children and young people within one week and non-urgent cases in four weeks by 2020/21.”