Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.
The study used computer modeling to simulate daily activities like food and beverage shopping of the populations of three U.S. cities – Baltimore, San Francisco and Philadelphia. It found that warning labels in locations that sell sugary drinks, including grocery and corner stores, reduced both obesity and overweight prevalence in the three cities, declines that the authors say were attributable to the reduced caloric intake. The virtual warning labels contained messaging noting how added sugar contributes to tooth decay, obesity and diabetes.
The findings, which will be published online December 14 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, demonstrates how warning labels can result in modest but statistically significant reductions in sugary drink consumption and obesity and overweight prevalence. Study results show a reduction in obesity prevalence by 1.69 percent and overweight prevalence by 1.39 percent in Baltimore, 4.08 percent and 3.1 percent in San Francisco and 2.17 percent and 0.36 percent in Philadelphia. Variations between cities may be in part due to the different proportion of obese and overweight inhabitants in the cities as well as different distributions of BMI (body mass index), the researchers say. While this intervention has a positive impact on obesity and overweight prevalence, it is not the sole solution to the obesity epidemic, as addressing many other factors is key.