LEICESTERSHIRE, U.K. — Labeling food and drinks with the amount and type of physical activity needed to burn off the calories it contains could help reduce obesity.
Researchers at the Loughborough University, Leicestershire, U.K., examined several studies comparing physical activity calorie equivalent (PACE) labeling with other types of food labeling and found that wide application of PACE could significantly reduce daily calorie intake.
Data was pooled from more than a dozen randomized controlled research studies. When PACE labeling was displayed on food items and on menus, consumers selected an average of 65 less calories per meal. PACE labeling also was associated with the consumption of 80 to 100 fewer calories than other types of labeling.
Based on these findings, researchers suggested a person eating three meals and two snacks a day would consume 200 less calories.
The average adult in the U.K. eats around 200 to 300 more calories per day than is recommended by Public Health England. In the United States, where obesity rates recently reached historic levels, the average adult consumes up to 1,000 more calories a day than is recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Knowing that a chocolate bar containing 230 calories requires 23 minutes of running or 46 minutes of walking to burn off may help curb these trends.
“The evidence shows that even a relatively small reduction in daily calorie intake combined with a sustained increase in physical activity is likely to be good for health and could help curb obesity at the population level,” said Amanda Daley, professor of behavioral medicine at Loughborough University and lead author of the study. “PACE labeling may help people achieve this. It is a simple strategy that could be easily included on food and drinks packaging by manufacturers, on shelving price labels in supermarkets, and in menus in restaurants and fast-food outlets.”