New nu­tri­tion la­bel sys­tem would be eas­ier for shop­pers to get it, study finds

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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

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