Even if you think you’re pretty good at reading nutrition labels, a recent research study suggests you’re probably over-estimating the amount of information you’re actually absorbing.
The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, included 203 participants who were asked to look at information on 64 different grocery products displayed on a computer screen. The details included Nutrition Facts labels, photos and ingredient lists and the price and quantity of the product. The participants’ eye movements were tracked as they looked at the screen. Researchers compared that data with what participants said they usually consider when looking at food packaging.
33% of participants said they almost always look at calorie content, but their eyes told a different story. Just 9% actually looked at the calorie count for the majority of products shown.
31% said they typically consider total fat content, 20% reported looking at trans-fat, 24% for sugar and 26% for serving size.
The actual numbers based on their eye movement? Only 1% looked at total fat, trans-fat, sugar content and serving size.
Interestingly enough, study authors found Nutrition Facts labels that appeared near the center of the computer screen were viewed more thoroughly than those displayed on the sides. They also reported more people looked at the nutrition information near the top of the label than the details near the bottom.
“Because knowing the amounts of key nutrients that foods contain can influence consumers to make healthier purchases, prominently positioning key nutrients, and labels themselves, could substantially impact public health,” say investigators Dan J. Graham, PhD, and Robert W. Jeffrey, PhD, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
The authors conclude moving the Nutrition Facts labels to the front of food packaging and highlighting items with high nutritional value could help all of us make healthier choices.
Interested in improving your Nutrition Facts literacy? Check out Making Sense of Food Labels right here on the Share the Health blog or How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Labelfrom the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).