New nutrition label system would be easier for shoppers to get it, study finds
Making labelling on food easier for consumers to digest might improve nutrition and curb the obesity epidemic, two McGill University researchers Thomas Thomas Shultz and Peter Helfer suggest.
“I had no idea the obesity crisis was a real crisis, but when you actually look at the economic consequences, it’s enormous. If unchecked it will bankrupt the medical systems in even the richest countries,” said Shultz, a professor of psychology and computer science at the Montreal university.
Shultz and Helfer, lead author of the study and a PhD student in psychology and neuroscience at McGill, compared four labelling systems. They found that the least usable is the ‘per cent daily value’ nutrition facts label found on most food products in Canada and the United States.
A system called NuVal, which scores foods on a scale of one to 100, developed by Yale University professor David Katz, came out on top. The ‘traffic light’ system used in the United Kingdom lets people make more nutritious choices but it takes more time for shoppers, who need to count and compare the red, yellow and green for the various ingredients in a given product.
The fourth type is a binary system that certifies some foods as nutritious but not others, and makes it quicker for shoppers to make buying decisions but doesn’t increase nutritious choices, the researchers found. “What our study shows is that a system like NuVal could be useful — something that simplifies nutrition information, resolves conflicts, is very easy and quick to use,” Shultz said. For their study, Shultz and Helfer recruited 192 participants from Canada and the US and conducted an online experiment to measure people’s ability to compare pairs of foods on nutrient levels — based on labels — and to estimate amounts of saturated fat, sugar, sodium, fibre and protein in the foods.
“And the food companies have learned that they can charge more for products that have nutritionsounding advertising on them. Like advertising low-fat — they can charge more for that and people are willing to pay it.”
The study is published in the December issue of
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Eating more whole grains linked with lower mortality
Eating more whole grains is associated with up to 15 per cent lower mortality, particularly cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related mortality, according to a new long-term study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study also found that bran, a component of whole grain foods, was associated with similar beneficial effects. Bran intake was linked with up to 6 per cent lower overall mortality and up to 20 per cent lower CVD-related mortality. The study appears online in JAMA Internal Medicine. “This study further endorses the current dietary guidelines that promote whole grains as one of the major healthful foods for prevention of major chronic diseases,” said Qi Sun, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and senior author of the study.
Although eating more whole grains has been previously associated with a lower risk of major chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and CVD, until now there had been limited evidence regarding whole grains’ link with mortality. HSPH researchers and colleagues looked at data from more than 74,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and more than 43,000 men from the Health Professionals FollowUp Study who filled out questionnaires about their diet every two or four years from the mid-1980s to 2010. Adjusting for a variety of factors, such as age, smoking, body mass index, physical activity and overall diet excluding whole grains, the researchers compared the participants’ whole grain intake with mortality data over an approximately 25-year period.
Replacing refined grains and red meats with whole grains is also likely to lower mortality, according to the study. Swapping just one serving of refined grains or red meat per day with one serving of whole grains was linked with lower CVD-related mortality