Adolescents More Likely To Choose Water When Receiving Information On Calorie Intake

January 28, 2012

Researchers have found that adolescents  may make healthier choices when they have better information on calorie intake. In particular, when the information  indicates   a physical activity equivalent of the the calorie intake, young consumers are more likely  to choose  water. This information may be helpful in the fight against obesity.

According to a report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published  in the American Journal of Public Health,  giving young people  clear and visible caloric information can  result in lower calorie intake from sugar sweetened bewerages and increase water consumption.

Researchers found that adolescents were up to 50 per cent less likely to buy sugar-sweetened beverages at stores if they found visible and clear calorific information on sugary beverages, specifically if it was expressed in terms of a physical activity equivalent, i.e. how much exercise it would take to burn off the calories consumed.

Consumption of sugary beverages or soft drinks is often associated with obesity and is  highest among minority and lower-income adolescents.

Sara Bleich, assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, stated: “People generally underestimate the number of calories in the foods and beverages they consume. Providing easily understandable calorific information - particularly in the form of a physical-activity equivalent, such as running - may reduce calorie intake from sugar-sweetened beverages and increase water consumption among low-income black adolescents.”

The study was carried out at four corner stores located in low-income, predominately black neighbourhoods in Baltimore, Maryland. Researchers collected data from 1,600 beverage sales to black adolescents, aged between 12 and 18, by posting randomly one of the following three signs  at the stores:

“Did you know that a bottle of soda or fruit juice has about 250 calories?” (absolute caloric  count)

“Did you know that a bottle of soda or fruit juice has  about 10 per cent of your daily calories?” (percentage of total recommended daily intake)

“Did you know that working off a bottle of soda or fruit juice takes about 50 minutes of running?” (physical activity equivalent).

Whilst providing any caloric information reduced the chances of soft drinks being purchased by 40 per cent as opposed to when no information was provided, the physical activity equivalent was the most effective,  decreasing the odds of black adolescents choosing a sugar-sweetened beverage by 50 percent.

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