Calorie Labeling As a Tool To Reduce Weight Gain

Dr. Charoula Nikolaou University of Glasgow Graduate StudentMedicalResearch. com Interview with
Dr. Charoula Nikolaou
University of Glasgow Graduate Student

MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: Obese people gain most of their excess weight during young adulthood. This study describes how regular, daily, exposure to prominent calorie labeling of main meals, in a residential catered setting, abolished the expected weight gain usually seen in young adults. The mean weight gain observed in 120 residents the year before (without calorie-labeling) was similar to that found in other studies of young adults at 3.5 kg. In a second year with calorie labeling, there was no weight gain at all. In addition, catering costs were 33% lower during the year with calorie labeling so the intervention could be sustainable as well as easy to implement.

MedicalResearch: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: Yes. Previous literature shown little or no benefit from calorie labeling but it did not look at long-term exposure. We hoped that calorie labeling might reduce weight gain but in the second year with labeling, weight gain was completely abolished. Reduced catering costs were also unexpected.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: Calorie labeling is a simple and effective way of ‘nudging’ food choice to avoid unwanted weight gain.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: Future research should evaluate food choices and weight changes in other settings with regular exposure to prominent calorie-labeling and support using social media etc. Research can also explore caterers’ responses to calorie labeling, with a view to recipe reformulation, to take advantage of the reduced costs of lower calorie meals.

European Conference on Obesity 2014 abstract:
Preventing weight gain with calorie-labeling