Understanding food labels can be challenging
Susan Aldridge, PhD, medical journalist says, many people misinterpret food labels, which may impact on their nutrition status. There is now a wealth of information on food labels which, in theory, should help us make informed choices and improve our diet. But what do people actually make of food labels? A team at Vanderbilt University Medical Center tested 200 patients on their understanding, setting them questions on, for example, the carb content of food servings. Many of the products used in the survey were labeled 'reduced carb' or 'low carb'.
Of the participants, 77 per cent had at least grade 9 literacy, but 63 per cent had less than grade 9 numeracy. Forty per cent had a condition where healthy eating was recommended and 23 per cent were on a specific diet plan. Most participants said they found food labels easy enough to understand. But only 69 per cent of the questions put were answered correctly. For instance, only 32 per cent could correctly calculate the amount of carbohydrate consumed in a 20 ounce bottle of soda that had 2.5 servings. This illustrated problems people have in working out amounts of nutrients in serving size from a food label. People might be able to improve their nutrition if food labels were easier to read. Maybe, too, healthcare providers can talk to patients about how to use a food label for healthy eating.
Source American Journal of Preventive Medicine November 2006 Volume 31 Number 5