Reading Food Labels

Want to lose those last ten pounds? Start reading food labels while you’re doing your grocery shopping, says new research published in the journal Agricultural Economics.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, found that shoppers—especially women—that read food labels during their shopping were an average of nine pounds thinner than those shoppers who didn’t read labels.

Analyzing data from more than 25,000 sources on eating and shopping habits on record with the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, the research team was able to identify specific information about the people who read labels while shopping in the comprehensive study. The lifestyle of the label readers included more healthy habits such as healthier food choices and regular exercise, than those who didn’t read labels. City dwellers read more labels than suburban or rural shoppers; consumers who had high school and college educations were more likely to read labels than high school dropouts. Cigarette smokers also paid very little attention to the food labels.

Women have traditionally done more of the shopping than men and the study result were consistent: Seventy-four percent of women and 58 percent of men read labels. For women, the average body-mass index was 1.48 points lower than non-label readers. For men, it was just 0.12 percent lower.

Diet-related health issues are a serious reality for many Americans; nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese and recent estimates suggest 75 percent of the nation’s population could fall into those categories by 2015.

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Image: Phil and Pam