Calorie labels lead to healthy food choices

New York: Love eating fries, cherry cheesecake or that scrumptious cheeseburger? But you might resist binging on those after reading the calorie content information, say researchers.  The study showed that seeing pictures of food with calorie information that you might otherwise be inclined to eat not only made those less appetising, but it also appeared to change the way your brain responds to the food.

“Our findings suggest that calorie-labelling may alter responses in the brain’s reward system when considering food options,” said co-author Andrea Courtney, postdoctoral student at the Stanford University in the US.
“Moreover, we believe that nutritional interventions are likely to be more successful if they take into account the motivation of the consumer, including whether or not they diet,” said Courtney. For the study, the researchers included 42 undergraduate students aged between 18 and 22, including 22 dieters and 20 non-dieters.

They viewed 180 food images without calorie information followed by images with calorie information and were asked to rate their desire to eat the food. On a scale from 1 to 4 (1 meaning ‘not at all’, 4 as ‘very much’), they indicated how likely they would eat the food.The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, showed that while dieters and non-dieters both rated calorie-labelled foods as less appetizing, this effect was strongest among dieters. Dieters may consider calorie information even when it is not explicitly present and the presence of health cues can lead to healthier food decisions, findings suggested.

“In order to motivate people to make healthier food choices, policy changes are needed that incorporate not only nutritional information, including calorie content, but also a public education component which reinforces long-term benefits of a healthy diet,” noted Kristina Rapuano, a postdoctoral student at Yale University in the US.

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