Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One Coke Equals a Four-Mile Run? Do The Math!

Here's a great article about a great idea, from the DAILY MAIL…


If you knew you would need to go for a four-mile run to burn off the calories you have consumed, would you drink a bottle of Coca-Cola?

Scientists are calling for exercise data to be printed on packaging - because they think calorific information is meaningless to most people.

A 500ml bottle of Coke, for example, contains 210 calories, more than a 10th of the daily recommended intake for a woman. But US scientists think that statistic is ignored by most people and does not work as a health message. Instead, telling them that it would take a 4.2 mile run or 42-minute walk to burn off the calories is far more effective.

The researchers, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, found that teenagers given the information chose healthier drinks or smaller bottles.

Other scientists have called for the same approach to be taken in fast food restaurants. They say that if a menu tells you a double cheeseburger will take a 5.6-mile hike before the calories are burned off, most people would rather choose a smaller hamburger which would require a walk of 2.6 miles.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, adds to growing evidence suggesting that calorific information is ignored by most people. Study leader Professor Sara Bleich said: "People don’t really understand what it means to say a typical soda has 250 calories.

"If you’re going to give people calorie information, there’s probably a better way to do it.

What our research found is that when you explain calories in an easily understandable way such as how many miles of walking needed to burn them off, you can encourage behaviour change."

The research team displayed signs in six corner shops in Baltimore, presenting facts about a 590ml bottles of fizzy drinks. The signs said that to burn off the 250 calories in the drinks would require 50 minutes of running or a five-miles walk. The scientists found that customers bought far more healthy drinks once the signs went up.

The average calories of the drinks they purchased dropped from 203 calories to 179. Water purchases, meanwhile, increased from 1 per cent to 4 per cent.

Prof Bleich said the findings were especially relevant for young people.

"This is a very low-cost way to get children old enough to make their own purchases to drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages and they appear to be effective even after they are removed. There is a strong scientific link between consumption of sugary beverages and obesity. Using these easy-to-understand and easy-to-install signs may help promote obesity prevention or weight loss."

Separate research found that the same idea worked in fast food restaurants.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina found that exercise information persuaded people to choose more healthy food on menus.

Professor Anthony Viera at the University of North Carolina said: "We believe that labels displaying information about physical activity will allow people to better appreciate the trade-offs of high-calorie foods, and thereby influence them to make choices for foods with lower calories. And we think that labelling foods like this may even have the extra benefit of promoting physical activity."

--Ben Spencer

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