Life Wellbeing ‘This will take 45 minutes of running to burn off’: Food labelling could curb obesity
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‘This will take 45 minutes of running to burn off’: Food labelling could curb obesity

Junk food labelling
Research suggests showing the exercise needed to work off the calories in junk food would help people make healthier decisions. Photo: Getty
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Telling a would-be eater how long they’d have to log on the treadmill to burn off the calories of a KitKat could change a person’s eating habits for the better, a new study says.

Researchers in the UK want to slap ‘exercise required’ labels on junk food in a bid to curb the ever-growing rate of obesity.

They say it’s worth a shot, because no other campaigns seem to be working.

The team, from Loughborough University, calculate such labelling could results in a person eating up to 195 calories less a day.

“Many people do not understand the meaning of calories or grams of fat in terms of energy balance,” the research states.

“A key challenge to limiting energy consumption is the significant underestimation by the public of the amount of calories/fat in food/drinks.

So instead of being left to interpret intimidating and often confusing kilojoules ranked against serving sizes, your friendly snack aisle chocolate bar would read as such: “229 calories; walk 42 minutes or run 22 minutes”.

Kilojoule confusion would be replaced with straight-forward calories = exercise labels. Photo: Loughborough University

“(This) 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,” the researchers said.

“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.”

To reach their findings, the researchers found 14 trials that test this labelling, and compiled them.

They found when calories-versus-exercise alerts were on packaging and menus, people ate 65 less calories per meal.

Even a small reduction in daily calorie intake, combined with regular exercise, is good for a person’s health and can help to combat obesity.

There are caveats, the researchers admit – it was a small number of studies, each done quite differently, and none in real-life settings of supermarkets or eateries – but the findings were enough to suggest it could have merits.

But they caution, 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.

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