Research: Nutritional labelling may help reduce caloric intake


Nutritional information on restaurant menus rescued caloric consumption

Wendy's Nutrition

Wendy’s Nutrition

In recent years, nutritional labelling have been advocated as a means to promote better health by reducing consumption of less healthy foods.  Eating excess calories contributes to people becoming overweight and obese.  Obesity has been shown to increases the risks of heart disease, diabetes metabolic syndrome, and cancer.  All of these can lead to reduction in health and increase premature death.  Anything we can do to lower levels fo obesity will help increase heath and reduce spending on these obesity related illnesses. Unfortunately, many different nutritional labelling schemes have been tried over the last several years and there is limited agreement on whether such labelling is effective in promoting healthier behavior.

Several research groups have looked at whether putting nutritional labels on food and non-alcoholic drinks might have an impact on their consumption and thus tied their results to better health.   The results of the studies have been mixed and many have failed to confirm a positive result tied to nutritional labels.  That is all about to change with a recent meta analysis.  A team of Cochrane researchers has brought together the results of prior studies in an

attempt to

Wendy\'s Burger

Wendy’s Burger

combine the efforts of prior studies to evaluating the effects of nutritional labels on consumption.  

So what about the research?  This systematic review was performed to assess the impact of nutritional labelling for food and non-alcoholic drinks on purchasing and thus consumption of healthier items.  The researchers searched electronic databases, hand searched references, and citations for prior research[1].  The also sought out unpublished studies through websites and trials registries to expand the data used.  The results of the review found that the data quality was poor, but the results showed promise.  One study reviewed found that nutritional data on menus reduced caloric consumption by 7.8%.  This could make a dramatic difference in 1-2 years if subjects maintain the effort.  

The bottom line:  Nutrition labels on menus make sense.  They should be effective, but more studies are needed. People who read them and used them likely reduce their caloric consumption.  More research is needed.  


R. Crockett et al., “Nutritional labelling for healthier food or non-alcoholic drink purchasing and consumption.,” Cochrane Database Syst Rev, vol. 2, p. CD009315, Feb. 2018. [PubMed]
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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