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No More Math, Just Clear Food Labels

Part of making healthy food choices is being well informed about the contents of a product and its nutritional value. However, different companies use various ways to make their products appear healthier, including making their recommended serving sizes smaller, so that the amount of calories, fat, sugar, etc per serving seem smaller. Having different methods of listing nutrition facts can confuse consumers, and researchers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tested which type of food labeling could help more consumers make healthier food choices.

Their results, which appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, showed that labels which clearly displayed the total number of nutrients and calories contained in the entire product package rather than per serving (or part of it) will enable people to make better food choices. FDA researchers Amy Lando and Serena Lo surveyed nearly 9,500 U.S. adults, who were shown one of ten different types of food labels that listed calories and nutrients per serving, or per container, in various ways. Participants were asked to evaluate the healthfulness of different products and to determine how much nutrients like fat, for example, was contained in one serving. They were also asked to compare different types of chips or frozen meals to decide which was healthier.

The investigators found that labels which displayed the nutrition facts for the food in an entire container, or for both one serving and the entire package, were more effective in helping the participants determine which foods were more healthful than others.

Experts agree that it is best to present the nutritional facts for an entire package of food to make it simple for consumers without having to let them do the math in deciding which foods to eat.


Pittman, G. Clearer food labels might help with healthy food choice: study. Reuters Health.


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