Displaying calorie information on sugar-sweetened beverages may lead to better health choices among low-income black adolescents, especially when it also shows how many minutes of exercise would be needed to burn off those calories, says a new study.
The research, published this week in the American Journal of Public Health, examined the effect of providing caloric information about sugar-sweetened beverages on the number of resulting purchases of these products. Researchers randomly posted one of the following methods of displaying calorie information at four corner stores in low-income, predominantly black neighborhoods in Baltimore, Md.: (1) absolute caloric count; (2) percentage of total recommended daily intake; and (3) physical activity equivalent. They collected data for 1,600 beverage sales by black adolescents, between the ages of 12 and 18, including 400 for each of the caloric intervention groups and 400 baseline.
Researchers discovered that when caloric information was provided as a physical activity equivalent, this intervention reduced the odds of the adolescents purchasing a sugar-sweetened beverage. The researchers found that providing easily understandable calorie information — particularly in the form of physical activity — may be an effective strategy for lowering calorie intake from sugar-sweetened beverages among low-income black adolescents and encouraging increased water consumption.
“In general, people are very bad at estimating the amount of calories in food they consume,” said study researcher Sara Bleich, an assistant professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health in an interview with FOX News. “If we give them easy ways of examining it…I think we can be effective in reducing calories in purchases.”
“Because of the inclusion of mandatory calorie labeling in the recent health reform bill, it is also important to explore the most effective strategies for presenting caloric information to consumers on fast food restaurant menu boards,” suggest the study’s authors.
Would the display of calorie count in a physical activity equivalent on sugary beverages get you to think twice about the purchase, and opt for water or a healthier drink instead?