After reading nutrition labels, boys and girls don't necessarily
make better dietary decisions, according to researchers.
Are You Label Able?
That's a chapter from The Power of Choice, a free
healthy-eating resource for young adolescents, developed by USDA's
Food and Nutrition Service and the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You can
download it from the USDA
Youth Need Training to Interpret Nutrition
Labels By Rosalie Marion Bliss
January 27, 2005
Adolescents who read the nutrition facts labels on food packages
aren't necessarily eating healthier diets than those who don't. That's
according to a recent Agricultural Research
Service-funded study published in the
of Adolescent Health.
The study was conducted by Terry T.-K. Huang, an epidemiologist
specializing in preventive medicine, and colleagues. Huang led the study while
serving as a research associate at the
Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in
Boston, Mass. He now is an assistant professor at
Tufts' Friedman School of Nutrition
The researchers surveyed 300 boys and girls aged 10 to 19, primarily
Caucasian and African-American. The adolescents were asked whether they read
nutrition labels "sometimes," "always," or "never." Also, each volunteer's body
mass index and dietary fat intake were assessed. More than 56 percent of the
participants reported sometimes reading nutrition labels, nearly 22 percent
reported always reading nutrition labels and nearly 22 percent reported never
A higher fat intake was associated with the boys who always read
nutrition labels, but not so for the girls who read the labels. The researchers
speculate that a desire among boys to "beef up" could lead them to seek more
protein and, in the process, consume more fat. No differences in
nutrition-label reading were found across ethnicities, but African-Americans
consumed more calories from fat than Caucasians.
Because early dietary practices may play a significant role in health
and disease later in life, the study's authors noted that more research is
needed to evaluate the relationship between reading nutrition labels and
dietary intake among younger populations.
Based on this preliminary study, the authors recommend that educators
and parents help kids learn how to use the information on nutrition facts
labels more effectively. The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration updated its online resource, "How To Understand and Use the
Nutrition Facts Label," in November 2004.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of