Friday, February 04, 2005

Youth need training to interpret nutrition labels


USDA's Agricultural Research Service recently reported on research about adolescents' understanding of food labels. Terry Huang at the Friedman School, Tufts University, found that higher fat intake was positively associated with reading nutrition labels for boys, but not girls. One might have thought that the label readers would choose lower fat foods. What explains this interesting paradox? One possibility would be that adolescent boys with unhealthy eating habits have become aware, or been have been encouraged to become aware, that they need to watch what they eat. Huang's suggestion is that perhaps adolescent boys are reading nutrition labels specifically in order to get high fat foods, so they can "bulk up." With small samples, a third possibility is always that the result is a fluke, but Huang's study had a respectable 300 subjects. The study is published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

A related nutrition education program for youth from USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, called The Power of Choice, contains a nice segment on reading nutrition labels. It also says, "With today’s snack and fast food choices, most preteens eat too many high-fat foods, perhaps more than they think." Hmm, that's probably not the phrasing Ronald McDonald would have chosen.


1 comment:

food management degree said...

With the information in the nutrition boxes changing due to the new allergy information requirements, be sure to check out the whole box not just the ingredient list.