Cochrane Review evidence suggests nutritional labelling on menus may reduce calorie intake

New evidence published in the Cochrane Library today shows that adding calorie labels to menus and next to food in restaurants, coffee shops and cafeterias, could reduce the calories that people consume, although the quality of evidence is low.

Eating too many calories contributes to people becoming overweight and increases the risks of heart disease, diabetes and many cancers, which are among the leading causes of poor health and premature death.

Several studies have looked at whether putting nutritional labels on food and non-alcoholic drinks might have an impact on their purchasing or consumption, but their findings have been mixed. Now, a team of Cochrane researchers has brought together the results of studies evaluating the effects of nutritional labels on purchasing and consumption in a systematic review.

The team reviewed the evidence to establish whether and by how much nutritional labels on food or non-alcoholic drinks affect the amount of food or drink people choose, buy, eat or drink. They considered studies in which the labels had to include information on the nutritional or calorie content of the food or drink. They excluded those including only logos (e.g. ticks or stars), or interpretative colours (e.g. 'traffic light' labelling) to indicate healthier and unhealthier foods. In total, the researchers included evidence from 28 studies, of which 11 assessed the impact of nutritional labelling on purchasing and 17 assessed the impact of labelling on consumption.

The team combined results from three studies where calorie labels were added to menus or put next to food in restaurants, coffee shops and cafeterias. For a typical lunch with an intake of 600 calories, such as a slice of pizza and a soft drink, labelling may reduce the energy content of food purchased by about 8% (48 calories). The authors judged the studies to have potential flaws that could have biased the results.

Combining results from eight studies carried out in artificial or laboratory settings could not show with certainty whether adding labels would have an impact on calories consumed. However, when the studies with potential flaws in their methods were removed, the three remaining studies showed that such labels could reduce calories consumed by about 12% per meal. The team noted that there was still some uncertainty around this effect and that further well conducted studies are needed to establish the size of the effect with more precision.

The Review's lead author, Professor Theresa Marteau, Director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge, UK, says: "This evidence suggests that using nutritional labelling could help reduce calorie intake and make a useful impact as part of a wider set of measures aimed at tackling obesity," She added, "There is no 'magic bullet' to solve the obesity problem, so while calorie labelling may help, other measures to reduce calorie intake are also needed."

Author, Professor Susan Jebb from the University of Oxford commented: "Some outlets are already providing calorie information to help customers make informed choices about what to purchase. This review should provide policymakers with the confidence to introduce measures to encourage or even require calorie labelling on menus and next to food and non-alcoholic drinks in coffee shops, cafeterias and restaurants."

The researchers were unable to reach firm conclusions about the effect of labelling on calories purchased from grocery stores or vending machines because of the limited evidence available. They also added that future research would also benefit from a more diverse consideration of the possible wider impacts of nutritional labelling including impacts on those producing and selling food, as well as consumers.

Professor Ian Caterson, President of the World Obesity Federation, commented: "Energy labelling has been shown to be effective: people see it and read it and there is a resulting decrease in calories purchased. This is very useful to know – combined with a suite of other interventions, such changes will help slow and eventually turnaround the continuing rise in body weight."

###

Editor's notes:

Full citation:

Crockett RA, King SE, Marteau TM, Prevost AT, Bignardi G, Roberts NW, Stubbs B, Hollands GJ, Jebb SA. Nutritional labelling for healthier food or non-alcoholic drink purchasing and consumption. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD009315. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD009315.pub2

For further information, please contact,

Jo Anthony
Senior Media and Communications Officer, Cochrane
M +44(0) 7582 726 634 E [email protected] or [email protected]

Craig Brierley
Head of Research Communications
University of Cambridge
Tel: +44 (0)1223 766205
Mob: +44 (0)7957 468218
Email: [email protected]

Dawn Peters Wiley (US)
+1 781-388-8408
[email protected]

About Cochrane

Cochrane is a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers and people interested in health. Cochrane produces reviews which study all of the best available evidence generated through research and make it easier to inform decisions about health. These are called systematic reviews.

Cochrane is a not-for profit organization with collaborators from more than 130 countries working together to produce credible, accessible health information that is free from commercial sponsorship and other conflicts of interest. Our work is recognized as representing an international gold standard for high quality, trusted information.

Find out more at cochrane.org

Follow us on twitter @cochranecollab

If you are a journalist or member of the press and wish to receive news alerts before their online publication or if you wish to arrange an interview with an author, please contact the Cochrane press office: [email protected]

About the University of Cambridge

The mission of the University of Cambridge is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. To date, 98 affiliates of the University have won the Nobel Prize.

Founded in 1209, the University comprises 31 autonomous Colleges, which admit undergraduates and provide small-group tuition, and 150 departments, faculties and institutions. Cambridge is a global university. Its 19,000 student body includes 3,700 international students from 120 countries. Cambridge researchers collaborate with colleagues worldwide, and the University has established larger-scale partnerships in Asia, Africa and America.

The University sits at the heart of the 'Cambridge cluster', which employs 60,000 people and has in excess of £12 billion in turnover generated annually by the 4,700 knowledge-intensive firms in and around the city. The city publishes 341 patents per 100,000 residents. http://www.cam.ac.uk

About Wiley

Wiley, a global research and learning company, helps people and organizations develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Our online scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, combined with our digital learning, assessment and certification solutions help universities, learned societies, businesses, governments and individuals increase the academic and professional impact of their work. For more than 210 years, we have delivered consistent performance to our stakeholders. The company's website can be accessed at http://www.wiley.com

Media Contact

Dawn Peters
[email protected]
781-388-8408

http://newsroom.wiley.com/

http://newsroom.wiley.com/press-release/cochrane-library/new-cochrane-review-evidence-suggests-nutritional-labelling-menus-res

Related Journal Article

http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD009315.pub2

Comments

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

%d bloggers like this: