Women who read food labels while doing their shopping 'weigh less than those who ignore them'
Body mass index of women who read labels is 1.49 points lower – 9lbs – than those who do not checkThe difference in men is just 0.12 points
16:30 GMT, 14 September 2012
Women who read food labels while doing their shopping weigh over half a stone less than those who ignore them, researchers said.
Consulting labels on food products can prevent obesity, as the body mass index of women who read labels is 1.49 points lower – about 9lbs – than those who do not look at such information, according to a study.
And scientists say white, educated, city-dwelling women pay the most attention to their food labels, seeing a body mass reduction of 1.76 points.
Study: White, educated and city-dwelling women pay the most attention to their food labels – and weight the least
Researchers from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain collated a total of 25,640 observations on health, eating and shopping habits from American consumers.
They asked participants whether they read nutritional information in supermarkets and, if so, how often.
Lead researcher Professor Marma Loureiro said: '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.'
They team found that the highest obesity levels were among the non-Latin black population (49.5 per cent), Mexican Americans (40.4 per cent), Latins (39.1 per cent) and the non-Latin white population (34.3 per cent).
Also, those who smoke pay much less attention to food labels.
Professor Loureiro said: '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.'
City dwellers – half the sample – take nutritional information into account the most, and those with a high school education and university studies also read the labels, the researchers found.
'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'
In terms of gender, 58 per cent of men
either habitually or always read the information on food packets, but
74 per cent of women do.
Women who consult labels have a body mass index of 1.48 points lower, whereas the difference is just 0.12 points in men, the Agricultural Economics study – helped by the University of Tennessee and the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural Finance Research – showed.
Professor Loureiro said: 'Obesity is one of the most serious health problems in the modern day U.S. The number of overweight or obese adults has risen over the years.
'From 2009 to 2010, nearly 37 per cent of the adult population in this country were obese and in children and adolescents this figure rises to 17 per cent.
'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.'