Sugar warning labels work, researchers reveal

Wednesday, 03 June, 2020

Sugar warning labels work, researchers reveal

An analysis of more than 20 studies examining warning labels on sugary drinks revealed that the warning labels led to healthier drink choices. The findings highlight the potential usefulness of sugary drink warning policies in both informing consumers and reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. Sugary drinks refer to beverages with added sugar or other sweeteners, such as soft drinks, sports drinks or fruit-flavoured drinks.

“Our findings suggest that sugary drink warnings help consumers better understand products’ healthfulness and encourage consumers to make healthier choices about what drinks to buy,” said research team leader Anna H Grummon, PhD, a David E. Bell Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Grummon will present the research as part of Nutrition 2020 Live Online, a virtual conference hosted by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN).

Researchers identified 23 experimental studies of sugary drink warnings with data from 16,241 individuals. They then applied meta-analysis, a statistical technique that combines results from many studies. This allowed the researchers to create a comprehensive picture of existing research on sugary drink warnings. The meta-analysis indicated that, on average across studies, sugary drink warnings led to statistically significant reductions in sugary drink purchases.

“It is clear that sugary drink warnings can help consumers make healthier choices about the drinks they buy. Now, we are studying the best ways to design warnings to maximise their benefits. For example, should warnings include icons or pictures that help communicate the warnings’ message?” Grummon said.

Researchers are also exploring the effects of other types of messages to encourage healthier diets; for example, messages that encourage people to drink more water.

Image credit: © Moussa

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