Too Much Truth in Advertising?

nutrition label

I am old enough to remember when cigarettes did not have health warnings and when they were regularly advertised on TV. I also remember when food products did not have nutrition information on their packaging. Much has changed over the decades–overwhelmingly for the good of our health. Now, it is possible to find many restaurants–especially fast food establishments–that list calorie amounts for everything on the menu.

Researchers in the United Kingdom are suggesting that yet another level of labeling on food products could help to combat obesity. They studied the effect of PACE (Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent) labeling on calorie consumption. PACE is a fancy way of saying what activity, with how much intensity and for how long would a person need to do in order to burn off the calories in the product they are eating. For instance, PACE labeling could tell you that a cupcake has X number of calories and that a person would need to run for 15 minutes at 4 miles/hour to burn off those calories.

Here is a link to the press release on the study: https://www.lboro.ac.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2019/december/labelling-foods-amount-of-physical-activity-needed/ and here is the link to the article on http://www.cnn.com: https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/11/health/physical-activity-food-labels-wellness-scli-intl-gbr/index.html .

The research seems to indicate that when people have a greater sense of what those calories actually mean, they will make wiser choices about the food they eat. This is similar to the way that many weight loss apps allow users to know the exact number of calories in what they are eating while also “crediting” users for exercise they do.

There is some concern that this information could have a negative effect–in particular on those with or vulnerable to eating disorders. The PACE labeling could be used incorrectly and force such individuals to feel that they must burn off all or most of what they eat.

It will be interesting to see if this trend makes its way to other side of “the pond.” What will the reaction be here in the US? There was opposition to cigarette labeling and nutritional information on packaging–mostly by those who had the most to lose when the public knew the true health impact of their products. What the public think though? Too much info, or information is power?