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Abstract

Obesity is still on the rise, leading to high costs for the obese individual itself but also for society. We analyze the influence of peer effects on food choices in lunchrooms with posted nutrition facts. Data were collected in a lunchroom at a large U.S. university. Groups of four patrons each were interviewed for a total of 112 observations. Among others, results for calories consumed from pizza and pasta show that individuals who are dining in groups with at least one obese group member are taking in more calories. Looking at nutrition facts when ordering the food decreases calorie intake. The results suggest that dining with obese peers increases the probability of obesity while calorie labeling decreases the probability. In terms of nutrition signposting this is a promising result. However, only 15% of the sample had used the nutrition facts to make all their food choice, which leads to the conclusion that overall attention to nutrition labeling needs to be increased.

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