MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Anne Thorndike, MD, MPH
Massachusetts General Hospital
General Internal Medicine Division
Boston, MA 02114
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Nearly one-third of the 150 million US adults who are employed are obese. Employees frequently eat meals acquired at work, and workplace food is often high in calories. Effective strategies for reducing non-nutritive energy intake during the workday could help address the rising prevalence of obesity.
Simplified labeling, such as traffic-light labels, provide understandable information about the relative healthfulness of food and can be placed on menu boards, shelf labels, and individual packages to help employees make healthier choices. Choice architecture (e.g., product placement) interventions make it easier and more convenient for employees to choose a healthy item. It is unknown if labeling interventions are associated with sustained reductions in calorie intake, or if there are only temporary effects after which most people revert to higher-calorie choices.
A previous study demonstrated that a hospital cafeteria traffic-light labeling and choice architecture program resulted in a higher proportion of healthy green-labeled purchases and lower proportion of unhealthy red-labeled purchases over two years. The current study analyzed calories purchased by a longitudinal cohort of 5,695 hospital employees who used the cafeteria regularly. The study examined changes in calories purchased over time and hypothesized the effect of the change in calorie intake on employees’ weight.