Food Labels Should Say How Much Exercise It Would Take To Burn Off Calories, According To Study

Anna Lewis
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Delish

A recent study is claiming that labelling food with how much exercise must be done to burn off the calories would be effective in getting people to make healthier food choices.

But this physical activity calorie equivalent or expenditure (Pace) food labelling is being criticised as it could be triggering to people with eating disorders.

This new form of labelling is being recommended as the study says that many people don’t understand the meaning of calories or fat levels in terms of energy balance. So, to just have the number of calories on the label isn’t working.

But mental health advocate Hope Virgo – who had anorexia from the age of 13 - is convinced it’s a bad idea.

Hope told, “It is appalling. It’s extremely triggering for people with eating disorders, yes, but it also goes wider than this.

“We are creating a society terrified of food and feeling hungry. I was obsessed with exercise with my eating disorder and it was something I had to do all the time. It nearly killed me.

“Plus, people with obesity might have an eating disorder and we are not taking in to account that in the slightest, but often just assuming they are lazy. We need to educate people more broadly on this.

She added: “If I saw this in a shop I would get panicked and anxious.

“We learn the calories of everything, imagine if we then learnt the amount exercise we need to do for everything we eat.

“We are all different sizes too, so surely we all need to do different amounts of exercise.”

Photo credit: Getty Images

The study said that the effects of Pace labelling could vary according to context, with marketing, time constraints and price all likely to affect choices.

“Public health agencies may want to consider the possibility of including policies to promote (it) as a strategy that contributes to the prevention and treatment of obesity and related diseases.”

Duncan Stephenson, deputy chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health added: “We welcome this new research which builds the case for introducing activity equivalent food labelling

“Our own research showed that using this type of labelling did make people think twice about the calories they were consuming, and when compared with other forms of labelling, people were over three times more likely to indicate that they would undertake physical activity.

“We would like to see further research to test if the effect on calorie consumption is sustained when Pace labelling is applied in other settings such as restaurants and supermarkets.”