Want To Eat Less Fat? Resolve To Read Food Labels

Do food-nutrition labels really help people choose healthier, lower-fat foods? Or does reading the "Nutrition Facts" box while devouring a bag of potato chips merely add to the guilty pleasure?

Nutrition labels really do take a bite out of fat intake, according to researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, who will report their findings in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

"We found a strong relationship between reading nutrition labels and eating less fat," says lead author Marian Neuhouser, Ph.D., R.D. "People who don't read labels get around 35 percent of their calories from fat, compared to about 30 percent for people who read labels." Nutrition experts recommend that consumers get 30 percent or less of their daily calories from fat.

"The difference in fat intake between label-readers and non-readers was evident even after adjusting for age, weight, sex, education, exercise, attitudes about diet, and everything else that relates to the way people eat," she says.

The study was co-authored by Alan Kristal, Dr.P.H., and Ruth Patterson, Ph.D., R.D. All are from the Hutchinson Center's Cancer Prevention Research Program, Division of Public Health Sciences.

Funded by the National Cancer Institute, this is the first study to examine the effect of nutrition labels on diet since 1994, when standardized "Nutrition Facts" labels were required by Congress to appear on nearly all packaged foods. The labels report standardized portion sizes, along with corresponding calories, total and saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol and vitamins A and C, among other dietary components.

For this study, researchers randomly surveyed a representative sample of 1,450 adults in Washington state who were asked about label use, food intake, exercise and smoking.

Label use overall was common; 80 percent of those surveyed said they read labels on packaged foods. Label reading was most typical among wome

Contact: Kristen Lidke Woodward
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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