12 January - 20 June 2016

Physical based activity menu labels

9 Jan 13

Menus that describe how many miles you would need to walk in order to burn off the calories consumed in dishes have been shown to influence the choices of consumers.  A recent study published in the journal Appetite primarily by researchers at the School of Medicine, University of North Carolina used a web-based survey in which four randomly assigned groups of participants were asked to select dishes from menus with either calorie information only, calorie information and the minutes required to burn these off, calorie information and the distance required to burn these off or no nutritional information (the control group).  The menus all included the same dishes, consisting of a selection of sandwiches, salads and burgers, the latter of which, for example, was shown to contain 250 calories and would take 78 minutes of walking or a distance of 2.6 miles to burn off.  Results showed a clear correlation between the type of menu and the number of calories ordered; the control group ordered an average of 1,020 calories, while those with physical based activity described in time or distance ordered an average of 916 and 826 calories respectively, leading the researchers to conclude that menus describing the physical activity required in distance would be most effective in decreasing calorie intake in consumers, although it was pointed out that this theory would need further investigation in a real world scenario.  In addition, 82% of the study participants indicated a preference for physical based activity labels over those containing only calories or those containing no nutritional information at all.

A literature review also published recently has analysed 38 studies on consumer response to nutrition labels and has indicated that including colourful and graphical nutrition information on food packaging could  help consumers better understand the information.  The review by RTI International and published in Nutrition Reviews, reports that using text and colours to show “high,” “medium,” or low”  levels of nutrient were easier for consumers to interpret than those that only used numbers or percent of Recommended Dietary Allowance.

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