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Australian study finds warning labels on sugary drinks may deter people from buying them

Department of Internal Medicine, Co-Director, Oral Health Section, Northeast Ohio Medical University, United States
Corresponding author: RL Fulton, Department of Internal Medicine, Co-Director, Oral Health Section, Northeast Ohio Medical University, 1388 Mac Drive, Roots Town, OH, United States. E-mail: rfulton330@gmail.com
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Appetite. 2018 Sep 1;128:233-241. Doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.05.149. Epub 2018 Jun 4.

Professor Anna Peeters, et.al., from Australia’s Deakin University presented a ground-breaking study at the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna, Austria, and colleagues on May 25, 2018. The study was entitled: The effect of sugar-sweetened beverage front-of-pack labels on drink selection, health knowledge, and awareness: An online randomized controlled trial.

In the study, Professor Peeters and her colleagues conducted an online choice experiment to examine the drink preferences of almost 1000 Australians aged 18–35 years. They were randomized into one of the five groups and asked to choose one of the 15 drinks, with sugary and non-sweetened options available. Participants were then asked to imagine that they were entering a shop, cafe, or approaching a vending machine to purchase a drink.

The drinks included either a no label (control group) or one of four labels on sugary drinks: (1) A graphic warning; (2) a text warning; (3) sugar information, including the number of teaspoons of added sugar; or (4) a health star rating on all drinks. Alternatively, they could select “no drink” if they no longer wanted to buy a drink.

The results of the study showed that, overall, participants were far less likely to select a sugary drink when a front-of-pack label was displayed compared to no label, regardless of their level of education, age, and socioeconomic background.

Graphic warning labels were displayed on the packaging which indicated that consuming drinks with added sugar may contribute to tooth decay (an image of decayed teeth), type 2 diabetes, or obesity appeared to have the greatest impact.

“The question now is what kind of impact these labels could have on the obesity epidemic. While no single measure will reverse the obesity crisis, given that the largest source of added sugars in our diet comes from sugar-sweetened drinks, that is a compelling case for the introduction of front-of-pack labels on sugary drinks worldwide,” Professor Peeters said.

Pub Med Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29879450

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