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Tufts E-News - Are Nutrition Labels Misused?

Tufts E-News - Are Nutrition Labels Misused?SomeTufts researchers believe that nutritional information labels,which were designed to help consumers make informed food purchases,may not be used by consumers as they were intended.Boston,Mass.

Boston [12.20.04] The nutritional datathat accompanies items in the grocery store has become ubiquitous,but some users may be selectively scanning for information ratherthan taking in a comprehensive portrait of the food’s nutritionalvalue, according to Tufts researchers.

“Therehas never been a program for the American public to educate peoplehow to use the food label,” Dr. Jeanne Goldberg, professorat Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy,told The New York Times.

The labelswere federally mandated in 1994, providing information on servingsize, calories per serving, total fat and amount of saturatedfat, carbohydrates, dietary fiber and other nutritional components.

But expertshave discovered that people aren’t necessarily using theinformation to eat healthier. Male teenagers, says Tufts researchassistant professor Terry Huang, speculates that these boys mayactually be using food labels to “bulk up.”

In a recentstudy of 300 young people between the age of 10 and 19, Huangreported that almost 80 percent of teens reported either alwaysor sometimes reading nutrition labels. Boys who read them, however,recorded a higher fat intake than girls who read the information.Young African-Americans who participated in the survey also recordeda higher consumption of fat than other respondents.

The study– which was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health– noted that boys may “assess total calories or proteinfrom a desire to gain body mass.” In girls, the study continued,fat intake did not differ but they may choose to focus on totalcalories.

“Thoughnutrition labeling may potentially yield significant benefits,early nutrition education that takes into account gender-specificissues is clearly needed to help the public better understandand use nutrition labels,” the authors noted.

The phenomenonis not limited to teenagers.

In a telephonesurvey, The New York Times queried more than 500 adultsabout their use of nutritional labels. The results showed thatwhile people may pick out the information about fat, caloriesor carbohydrates, they do not comprehensively assess the wholeof the food item’s health value.

Such a piecemealapproach to nutritional awareness is not enough, Goldberg explainedto the Times.

“Mysuspicion is that people take away nuggets of information, butit doesn’t add up to a healthful diet.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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