Labelling food and drinks with the amount of exercise needed to burn off the calories inside them encourages healthier choices, research suggests.
Scientists worked out that people eat 200 less calories every day when they are exposed to the messages on the packaging.
Known as physical activity calorie equivalent or expenditure (PACE), the labels show how many minutes of running and walking are needed to burn off snacks.
Researchers say this helps paint a more vivid picture of how healthy or unhealthy their food is.
For example, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream would take more than four-and-a-half hours of walking, or two hours and twenty minutes of running, to burn off.
It would take four hours and 40 minutes to walk off a 500ml tub of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup. These messages would be placed on the ice cream under the new PACE rules
Chilli Heatwave Doritos (180g) are packed with 894 calories and would take nearly three hours of walking, and an hour and a half of running, to burn off
A 110g bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate would come with this warning under the PACE guidelines analysed in the review
That’s for the average man weighing 80kg (12 stone 8lb). It would take even longer for a lighter woman, the researchers warn.
And you’d have to run for a solid hour-and-a-half or walk for three hours to burn off the near-900 calories in a 180g sharing bag of Doritos Chilli Heatwave. The PACE labelling system would make this clear on the packaging.
Currently, most pre-packed foods and drinks in in Britain are forced to have traffic light nutritional labels on their packaging.
These are highlighted in either green, amber or red depending on how high they are in calories, fat, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt.
But researchers from Loughborough University argued this system does not resonate with consumers.
To test this, they reviewed 14 studies which compared PACE to other nutritional labelling.
The results showed that 65 fewer calories were consumed per meal on average when PACE labelling was displayed on food and drink items and on menus.
The researchers suggest it could shave off around 200 calories a day, based on based on three meals plus two snacks.
A packet of Haribo Tangfastics weighing 140g are packed with 484 calories and would take more than 45 minutes to run off
You would need to run for an hour-and-a-quarter to burn off the calories in a litre of Coca Cola
A 266g pack of milk chocolate digestives would take more than two hours of solid running to burn off for the average person weighing 80kg
ARE RESTAURANTS FORCED TO LABEL THEIR MENUS WITH NUTRITION INFORMATION?
UK restaurants are not forced to label their menus by law, unlike in the US where it has become compulsory since March 2018.
The Government last year announced its intentions to introduce compulsory calorie labelling across England, in hope of tackling childhood obesity.
A consultation was launched last September as part of the Department of Health’s ambitious target of halving childhood obesity by 2030.
Former chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies recommended nutritional labelling is made compulsory on all supermarket food.
NHS figures that show the proportion of children who are severely obese in England has risen by more than a third since 2007.
But they urge caution as the number of included studies was small, and the design of each varied considerably.
Most weren’t carried out in real life settings, such as restaurants and supermarkets.
Amanda Daley, professor of exercise and health sciences at Loughborough, said in the study: ‘The evidence shows that even a relatively small reduction in daily calorie intake combined with a sustained increase in physical activity is likely to be good for health and could help curb obesity at the population level: PACE labelling may help people achieve this.
‘PACE labelling is a simple strategy that could be easily included on food/beverage packaging by manufacturers, on shelving price labels in supermarkets, and/or in menus in restaurants/fast-food outlets.
‘Public health agencies may want to consider the possibility of including policies to promote [it] as a strategy that contributes to the prevention and treatment of obesity and related diseases,’ they conclude.’
Duncan Stephenson, deputy chief executive at the Royal Society for Public Health, said of the findings: ‘We welcome this new research which builds the case for introducing activity equivalent food labelling.
‘Our own research showed that using this type of labelling did make people think twice about the calories they were consuming, and when compared with other forms of labelling, people were over three times more likely to indicate that they would undertake physical activity.
‘This type of labelling really does put an individual’s calorie consumption in the context of energy expenditure, and knowing how out of kilter we sometimes are, this partly explains the record levels of obesity we face.
‘We would like to see further research to test if the effect on calorie consumption is sustained when PACE labelling is applied in other settings such as restaurants and supermarkets.
‘Although the difference PACE labelling makes may seem small, these small changes can make a big overall difference to calorie consumption, and ultimately weight gain.’
The findings are published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
It comes after a major Harvard University study found mandatory nutritional labels in restaurants made people consume 60 fewer calories per meal.
They analysed more than 50million purchases at 104 restaurants before and after calorie labels became compulsory in the US.
|Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup (500ml)||1,400||2hrs 20mins||4hrs 40mins|
|Milk Chocolate McVitie’s (266g)||1,245||2hrs 4mins||4hrs 8mins|
|Doritos Chilli Heatwave (180g)||894||1hr 30mins||3hrs|
|Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate (110g)||588||59mins||1hr 57mins|
|Haribo Tangfastics (140g)||484||48mins||1hr 37mins|
|Coca Cola (litre bottle)||420||42mins||1hr 15mins|