Could fast food labels displaying exercise required to burn calories help reduce obesity?

Food labels displaying the amount of exercise needed to burn the calories in the product are promoted as a way to reduce obesity, but not everyone is convinced.

Researchers at Loughborough University in the UK believe that rating selected foods by physical activity calorie equivalent (PACE), which tells people how much walking or running is required to “work” on food, may reduce obesity.

Amanda Daly, professor of behavioral medicine at Loughborough University, told Nadia Mitsopoulos ABC Radio Perth The PACE rating may be easier for people to understand than a nutrition panel.

“PACE labels are all about trying to translate energy into food,” Professor Daly said.

Just giving people a number [of calories or kilojoules] Without context it doesn’t really help them make a decision.

“[If] I just said to you, for example, “You know, a box of potato chips has 150 calories,” what does that mean to you as a consumer? It’s only three numbers, right? “

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How many minutes are in a chocolate bar?

Professor Daly recently presented the idea for PACE at the International Obesity Conference in Melbourne in October.

While the team at Loughborough University is still experimenting with placing PACE labels in cafeterias and vending machines, the team says early results are promising.

“Our preliminary findings showed that when you place PACE labels in a context in which people have to make decisions about foods, it reduces the number of calories the public chooses to consume, which is exactly what we’re trying to do,” she said.

“Most people are overweight, and most of us eat a little too much and don’t do enough physical activity.

“We also found that the audience said that if the PACE label was presented, it would help them to think about what they were eating, but also to reduce their purchases of really high-calorie foods.”

PACE (Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent) label on muffin packaging
PACE (Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent) label on muffin packaging.(Supplied: Loughborough University, Amanda Daly)

The majority of the Australian population is overweight

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics health survey in 2018 found that 67 per cent of adults in Australia and 25 per cent of children were overweight or obese.

Some listeners to ABC Radio in Perth said they thought the PACE labels would be helpful.

Hindus: “I’m a huge chocolate addict. I think the new labels are a good idea to keep me updated on how much physical activity is required for the chocolate bars I eat every day.”

Healy: “Putting speed cards is a great idea. Informed consent before moving on to a bar of chocolate. It might inspire people to exercise.”

Kim: “I like the idea. It would give me an incentive to go to the store and come back if I really wanted a piece of chocolate instead of driving to get it.”

Others have reservations:

carList The ingredients are sufficient and good.”

Alex: “You can get 300 calories from a donut or 300 calories from a piece of fish. They have the same calorie value, but one satisfies the other is just empty calories. What matters more is where the calories come from.”

Food is more than just calories

While the PACE rating can provide useful information for people, a healthy lifestyle was much more than just counting calories, said Sherry Cooper, associate lecturer in the School of Medical and Health Sciences at Edith Cowan University in Perth.

“We know that food is much more complex than that. It’s full of nutrients and it matters, whether those calories come from nutrient-rich sources or they are discretionary calories,” Dr. Cooper said.

“From a weight management perspective, you need to live a healthy lifestyle, which really requires you to eat a balanced diet full of the five food groups, as well as not eat a lot of foods that are high in our saturated fat, sugar and sodium. And this system in The truth doesn’t differentiate it for consumers.”

Cereal, mango frappe, canned pear, lasagna, beef and fried vegetables.
Sherry Cooper recommends people eat a balanced diet, which includes an exotic treat.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Nicole Mills)

While calories and their exercise equivalents may be very useful information for individuals to receive as part of personalized advice from a dietitian, they are less convinced of their value as a population-wide strategy.

“For the past 20 years or more, certified dietitians have used this as an educational tool for some clients to help manage weight,” she said.

“It’s a good tool to show the difference in how calories contribute to energy in the diet and how those calories are burned.

“Expanding that to a poster on a public health nutrition message, that’s a whole different thing.

“We really need high-quality research to show that spreading this message really does reduce the incidence of chronic diseases that occur in the population.”

Promote healthy lifestyles

Dr. Cooper said exercise should be seen as part of a healthy lifestyle with a range of benefits beyond burning calories.

“We really need to get back to the Australian Dietary Guidelines messages, which emphasize the appropriateness of some form of exercise every day.

“[As well as burning calories] It can treat a lot of other things – it reduces stress, increases lean muscle mass, increases metabolic rate. “

Dr. Cooper was also not sure if the labels would motivate people to get more exercise.

“People work at many different levels,” she said.

“There is no evidence to prove that.

“Even the researchers proposing this strategy acknowledge that there is an evidence gap and there is certainly more research to be done before we can establish a public health policy on this.”

No need to feel guilty about food

Dr. Cooper said the occasional chocolate bar or cake should be something people can do without feeling guilty or feeling the need to make up immediately by exercising.

“That’s healthy food, isn’t it? Healthy eating, as we know from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, is sometimes eating foods that don’t fit the health food guideline panels.”

Professor Daly agreed that no single strategy is likely to reduce the number of people who are overweight or obese.

“I think there are a lot of things we can do,” Professor Daly said.

“We need all the information and strategies we can try and help the public make these decisions, considering that most of us are overweight or obese.”

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