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Energy density labels do not encourage overeating

Labels listing energy density the number of calories per ounce do not encourage overeating the way "low fat" labels are suspected of doing, a Penn State study has shown.

In the study, 40 normal weight women ate the same amount of food when their meals differed in calories by as much as 29 percent even when they were given labels that told them there were fewer calories per portion.

Tanja Kral, who conducted the study as her master's thesis, says, "Some studies have shown that people take larger portions of foods labeled 'low fat' using the label as a license to eat more. This study shows that energy density labels are unlikely to undermine the benefits of offering foods with fewer calories per ounce."

Kral conducted the study under the direction of Dr. Barbara Rolls, who holds the Guthrie Chair of Nutrition in Penn State's College of Health and Human Development. Rolls notes, "This tendency of people to take the same size serving of less energy dense foods, even when they know the portion contains fewer calories, offers food manufacturers and restaurants a way to decrease the fat and calories in their products making them healthier and satisfying."

The study is described in the October issue of the journal, Appetite, in a paper, "Does Nutrition Information About the Energy Density of Meals Affect Food Intake in Normal-Weight Women?" The authors are Kral, who is currently a doctoral candidate under Roll's direction, Liane S. Roe, research nutritionist, and Rolls.

In the study, 40 healthy, normal weight women ages 18 to 32, ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in Penn State's Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior on three days each a week apart. They ate the same meals each time: apple bake crisp for breakfast; pasta salad with yogurt dressing for lunch; and an Italian pasta bake for dinner. However, the number of calories per ounce of food, or energy density, was changed on each day by varying the amount of apples in
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Contact: Barbara Hale
bah@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
21-Oct-2002


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