Foods and drinks that are high in sugar have been linked to obesity and certain chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the University of Waterloo recently examined several labelling and tax strategies to see which were most effective in encouraging people to make healthier choices that could reduce their risk of developing these diseases.
The study included 3,584 Canadians aged 13 years and older. They were given $5 and then shown images of 20 drinks and 20 snacks they could buy. The products featured different types of labels on the front of the packages, such as “high in” labels that warned of high levels of sugar, sodium, saturated fat, or calories (this is the type of nutrition label currently proposed by Health Canada). Other labels featured a multi-coloured traffic light, a health star rating, a nutrition grade, or no nutritional information at all. The labels also included information about a “sugar tax,” depending on the amount of sugar the product contained.
The researchers found that when prices increased due to taxes, or packages displayed nutrition information, people bought products with less sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and calories. The “high in” warning labels were most effective in encouraging healthier choices compared to the other types of labels.
Taxes on sugary drinks and better nutrition labels are the types of measures that can help reverse increasing rates of obesity and chronic disease from unhealthy diets
says David Hammond, a professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo, and co-author of the study, which was published in the May 2019 issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
Did you know?
Diabetes Canada recommends that the Government of Canada introduce a levy on sugar-sweetened beverages and use the money raised to promote the health of Canadians. Read more at Sugar & Diabetes.
(This article appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Autumn 2019)
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