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Win for junk food study

Friday, 31 July 2015

Tags: Homepage; Community; Engagement; International; Research

An ECU team has been named in a top ten list of research projects that made big impacts on health care in 2014.

Associate Professor Owen Carter and his team were awarded a $77,758 Project Grant by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Their study looked at the effectiveness of the Daily Intake Guide (DIG), a voluntary nutrition labelling system which lists the amount of energy, fats, sugars and sodium in a single serve of a product, plus the percentage of recommended daily intake each amount represents.

Professor Carter and colleagues Mr Brennen Mills and Mr Steve Pratt found that in most cases, junk food only featured the energy component.

“For instance, one 500ml energy drink had a single label ‘16 per cent daily intake of energy’, which doesn’t sound too bad. It’s only when you read the little nutrition panel on the back that you learn it also contains 93 per cent of your daily intake of sugar, which is really bad,” he said.

Instead, they have proposed an ‘equivalent walking time’ measure for labels that, through an online experiment with 1000 Australians, they showed was far more effective at aiding people identify unhealthy snack foods than the DIG label.

“When people were presented with a can of soft drink and told it would take 40 minutes’ walking to burn off, all of a sudden a bottle of water with no kilojoules looked much more attractive.”

In announcing the NHMRC Ten of the Best 2014 list, the Federal Minister for Health Sussan Ley said the stories were further evidence of Australia’s world-leading standing in medical research.

“These research stories give us a glimpse into the next generation of treatments and medical devices that will make a difference to people’s lives,” Ms Ley said.

ECU Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve Chapman congratulated Professor Carter and his team on being named in the Ten of the Best 2014 list.

“ECU is committed to research that delivers positive impacts to our communities. This proposed labelling system helps to fight the obesity epidemic by providing the information to allow consumers to make healthier choices,” Professor Chapman said.


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