Effects of simplified nutrition labels on energy intake in adults
Johnson, Karena M.
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Nutrition labels were designed to promote healthy eating. A previous study in our laboratory found that energy intake during a buffet lunch was decreased when foods were displayed with standard nutrition labels. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of standard nutrition labels to a more simplified labeling system based on the Traffic Light Diet, which rates the nutritional value of food with green, yellow, or red colors, indicating that an individual may respectively eat as much as desired, moderately, or sparingly. Participants were 18-50 year old males and females. A buffet lunch was provided with each labeling condition (no labels, standard nutrition labels, or traffic light labels) presented in a randomized, crossover design. Foods were weighed before and after each visit to determine energy intake. We found that the standard nutrition labels and traffic light labels decreased energy intake in lean females, but not in lean males or overweight/obese males and females. However, we found that all participants consumed more energy from low-energy density (LED) and green foods (otherwise recognized as "healthier foods") with the presence of traffic light labels. Promoting consumers to eat more healthfully may be viewed as progress toward a healthier nation. Thus, traffic light labels may be a quick and effective visual tool for all consumers to better assess their food choices.