Would rotten teeth images stop you buying sugary drinks?

By June Shannon Obesity News   |   29th May 2018

New study suggests graphic warnings may reduce sugary drink consumption

Graphic warnings with images of rotten teeth may deter young people from buying sugary drinks, a new study has suggested.

The research, which was presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Vienna last week (23-26 May), found that young adults were less likely to buy sugar-sweetened drinks with health labels, particularly those with graphic warnings about how added sugar can lead to tooth decay, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

The study also found that people were more likely to choose healthier options if there was a Health Star Rating (scores the nutritional value of food) displayed on the drinks as is currently in place in Australia and New Zealand.

Young adults were less likely to buy sugar-sweetened drinks with health labels, particularly those with graphic warnings

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For the research Professor Anna Peeters from Australia’s Deakin University and colleagues conducted an online experiment to examine the drink choices of almost 1,000 Australians aged 18-35 years from a diverse range of socioeconomic status and education levels.

Participants were asked to imagine they were entering a shop, café, or approaching a vending machine to purchase a drink.

They were randomised to one of five groups and asked to choose one of 15 drinks, with sugary and non-sweetened choices available. The drinks included either a no label (control group) or one of four labels on sugary drinks-a graphic warning, text warning, or sugar information, including number of teaspoons of added sugar; or a health star rating on all drinks. Alternatively, they could select “no drink” if they no longer wanted to buy a drink.

Overall, participants were far less likely to select a sugary drink when a label was displayed compared to no label, regardless of their level of education, age, and socioeconomic background.

Graphic warning labels which showed that drinks with added sugar may contribute to tooth decay and included an image of decayed teeth, type 2 diabetes, or obesity seemed to have the greatest impact with people 36 per cent less likely to buy sugary drinks with a graphic warning compared to a drink with no label.

Other labels were also effective, with participants 20 per cent less likely to buy sugary drinks that included the Health Star Rating and 18 per cent less likely to buy a drink with a label displaying the number of teaspoons of added sugar contained in the drink. Young people were also 20 per cent more likely to choose healthier alternatives when Health Star Ratings were displayed compared to no label.

"In tandem with other measures such as taxation and reformulation, health labelling has a role to play in discouraging young people from consuming sugar sweetened drinks."

Mr Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy, Irish Heart Foundation

“Our findings highlight the potential of front-of-pack health labels, particularly graphic images and Health Star Ratings, to change consumer behaviour, reduce purchases of sugar-sweetened drinks, and help people to make healthier choices,” Professor Peeters said.

Commenting on the study Mr Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy with the Irish Heart Foundation said, “The Irish Heart Foundation believes that in tandem with other measures such as taxation and reformulation, health labelling has a role to play in discouraging young people from consuming sugar sweetened drinks, which are a unique contributor to our obesity crisis.”

“Of course, not everyone will be put off by graphic labels, but providing clear information that consuming sugary drinks is linked to an increased risk of obesity, as well as type 2 diabetes and tooth decay, is bound to act as a powerful disincentive to many young people.”

ENDS

 

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