Abstract

Many policy interventions that address rising obesity levels in the United States have been designed to provide consumers with more nutrition information, with the goal of encouraging consumers to decrease their caloric intake. We discuss existing information-provision measures and suggest that they are likely to have little-to-modest impact on encouraging lower caloric intake, because making use of such information requires understanding and/or motivation, which many consumers lack, as well as self-control, which is a limited resource. We highlight several phenomena from the behavioral economics literature (present-biased preferences, visceral factors, and status quo bias) and explain how awareness of these behavioral phenomena can inform both more effective information-provision policies and additional policies for regulating restaurants and public school cafeterias that move beyond information to nudge people towards healthier food choices.

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