A Nutrition Facts label can relay vital information to a customer by helping them reduce sodium, fat, sugar or calories, but only if a customer reads them. And a new study from the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health and Medical School reveals only about one-third of young adults report frequent use of Nutrition Facts labels.
The study surveyed nearly 2,000 young adults aged 25-36, primarily in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. They found that women and people with high education and income were more likely to read Nutrition Facts labels as well as people who regularly prepare food, who are physically active or are classified as overweight. Not surprisingly, people who were trying to lose, gain or maintain weight also were more likely read these labels.
“Young adults who did read Nutrition Facts had better dietary patterns, including eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” Mary Christoph, Ph.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study and post-doctoral fellow in the Medical School's Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, said in a news release.
The study was recently published in the Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Those who did read labels were concerned with sugars, calories and serving size, according to the study. These findings were in line with the new Nutrition Facts panel that was announced in May 2016 after the study took place, Christoph said.
“We wanted to understand which young adults used nutrition labels, what parts of the label they read and how label use was related to food intake. These questions are important for understanding how to better support young adults in making food choices, and how to meet consumer preferences in terms of label content,” Christoph said.
The study is being released at time when menu labeling is also being debated. In October, a review of 53 studies on restaurant calorie labeling found “limited evidence that menu labeling affects calories purchased at fast-food restaurants, some evidence demonstrates that it lowers calories purchased at certain types of restaurants and in cafeteria settings,” according to the review published in Obesity, a research journal. “The limited data on modified calorie labels find that such labels can encourage lower-calorie purchases but may not differ in effects relative to calorie labels alone.”
In early February, the House passed a scaled-back version of an Obama-era restaurant menu calorie count rule. The regulation is currently set to go into effect on May 7, 2018.
At the time, Peter Larkin, president and CEO of National Grocers Association, said, “This bill provides a common-sense solution to a burdensome regulation that was applied as a one-size-fits-all approach to vastly different industries. Independent supermarket operators are committed to providing their customers with accurate nutritional information, but need the flexibility to implement the rule across a multitude of store formats, all of which operate much differently than a chain restaurant.”
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