PITTSBURGH – A study appearing on-line Nov. 17 in the research journal Obesity found 63% of respondents indicated knowing the amount of added sugar in a food product would be helpful while 18% thought it would be confusing.                    

The study contrasted with another study released earlier this year by the Washington-based International Food Information Council. Among the findings in the IFIC study, 55% of respondents gave an accurate determination of total sugar content in a product when the Nutrition Facts Panel listed the amount of both “sugars” and “added sugars.” The “added sugars” listing on the Nutrition Facts Panel might cause consumers to believe food and beverage products have more sugar than they actually do, according to the IFIC.

The Food and Drug Administration proposed a mandatory listing of “added sugars” below “sugars” when proposing changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel in the March 3 issue of the Federal Register.

Besides coming up with different results, the IFIC study and the study in Obesity asked different questions.

Pittsburgh-based ConscienHealth, which works with experts and organizations and advocates for evidence-based prevention and treatment for obesity and health problems, provided financial support for the study in Obesity. The Center for Quantitative Obesity Research at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J., and ConscienHealth performed the study.

Researchers sampled 500 U.S. adults in an anonymous voluntary on-line survey in July. The people were shown a Nutrition Facts Panel with “added sugars” included and were asked how helpful or confusing the “added sugars” information would be and why. A 5-point scale captured responses about whether the listing was helpful.

People who said the “added sugar” listing would be helpful gave such reasons as wanting to know, health and concerns about sugar. People who said the “added sugar” listing would be confusing gave such reasons as not knowing or not caring.

“Nutritional labeling on packaged food and soft drinks is perhaps the most accessible and most accessed source of nutritional information for many Americans,” said Ted Kyle, founder of ConscienHealth and lead author of the study. “Higher consumption of added sugars has been associated with obesity and higher rates of cardiovascular disease. Consumers clearly believe they can benefit from knowing how much added sugar is in the products they are buying.”

The IFIC study involved presenting 1,088 people with one of three different Nutrition Facts Panels: one showing only a “sugars” line, one showing a “sugars” line with a declaration for “added sugars,” and one showing a “total sugars’ line with a declaration for “added sugars.”

Upon seeing the Nutrition Facts Panel showing only a “sugars” line, 92% of respondents accurately determined the total sugar content of the product. The percentages dropped to 66% for the panel showing a “total sugars” line and an “added sugars” line and 55% for the panel showing a “sugars” line and an “added sugars” line. The IFIC study also found confusion over what added sugars are, what ingredients would be considered added sugars and how they differ from other types of sugar.