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Exercise labels on food may improve choices

Wednesday December 11th, 2019

Food packaging labels should show how much exercise is needed to burn off the energy content, according to a new analysis.

The proposal would help tackle public ignorance about the significance of calories, enabling them to balance food intake with activity levels, according to the British proposers.

Professor Amanda Daley of Loughborough University, UK, and her team reviewed the evidence and believe that this approach “may reduce the number of kilocalories selected from menus and decrease the number of kilocalories/ grams of food consumed by the public”.

Reporting in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health today (11 December), they explain: “There is limited evidence that nutritional labelling on food/drinks is changing eating behaviours."

They describe an approach called Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent (PACE) food labelling, which outlines the physical activity, such as minutes of running, required to expend that number of calories “to encourage healthier food choices and reduce disease”.

The team analysed 15 previous studies on PACE food labelling compared with other types of labelling or none. They found that it led to significantly fewer calories being selected and consumed.

They write: “PACE labelling is a simple strategy that could be easily included on food/beverage packaging by manufacturers, on shelving price labels in supermarkets, and/or in menus in restaurants/fast-food outlets.

“Public health agencies may want to consider the possibility of including policies to promote it as a strategy that contributes to the prevention and treatment of obesity and related diseases.”

But they add that it is possible that the effects of PACE food labelling may vary according to context (eg, restaurants and supermarkets) and/or eating occasions (eg, snacks vs meals).

Future research should investigate these effects in real-life or naturalistic settings, they believe.

Daley, A. J. et al. Effects of physical activity calorie equivalent food labelling to reduce food selection and consumption: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled studies. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 11 December 2019 doi: 10.1136/jech-2019-213216

https://jech.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/jech-2019-213216

Tags: Diet & Food | Fitness | UK News

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