Washington: People, especially women, who read labels on food products are thinner, according to a study.
The study by an international team of scientists found that female consumers who consult food labels weigh nearly 4 kilograms less.
Along with the Universities of Tennessee, Arkansas (USA) and the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural Finance Research, the University of Santiago de Compostela has participated in the study on the relationship between reading the food label and obesity.
The results indicated that the body mass index of those consumers who read that label is 1.49 points lower than those who never consider such information when doing their food shopping. This translates as a reduction of 3.91 kg for an American woman measuring 1.62 cm and weighing 74 kg.
The data was taken from the annual National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) performed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some 25,640 observations were collected on health and eating and shopping habits. These included various questions on whether participants read the nutritional information in supermarkets and how often.
“First we analysed which was the profile of those who read the nutritional label when purchasing foods, and then we moved on to the relationship with their weight,” Maria Loureiro, lead author of the study, explained to SINC.
The team found very significant differences between consumers that read labels and those that do not. On the one hand, the study showed that the smoking population pays much less attention to this information.
According to the researcher, “their lifestyle involves less healthy habits and as a consequence, it could be the case that they are not so worried about the nutritional content of the food they eat, according to our results.”
Furthermore, the city-dwelling population takes nutritional information into account the most. This is also the case for those with high school education and universities studies.
According to sex, 58 percent of men either habitually or always read the information contained within nutritional labels. However, this figure stands at 74 percent for women.
“In general, the associated impact is higher amongst women than men,” added the researcher.
On average, women who read the nutritional information have a body mass index of 1.48 points lower, whereas this difference is just 0.12 points in men.
The study also touches on significant ethnic differences. In this sense, the white female consumers see the greatest reduction in the body mass of around 1.76 points.
“We know that this information can be used as a mechanism to prevent obesity. We have seen that those who read food labels are those who live in urban areas, those with high school and high education. As we would hope therefore, campaigns and public policy can be designed to promote the use of nutritional labelling on menus at restaurants and other public establishments for the benefit of those who usually eat out,” concluded Loureiro.
The results were published in the ‘Agricultural Economics’ journal.