Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Understanding Food Nutrition Labels Challenging For Many People

Date:
September 26, 2006
Source:
Elsevier Health Sciences
Summary:
In one of the most rigorous studies ever conducted to determine how well people comprehend the information provided on food nutrition labels, researchers have found that the reading and math skills of a significant number of people may not be sufficient to extract the needed information, according to an article published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In one of the most rigorous studies ever conducted to determine how well people comprehend the information provided on food nutrition labels, researchers have found that the reading and math skills of a significant number of people may not be sufficient to extract the needed information, according to an article published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Related Articles


Using standardized and validated tests for literacy (REALM -Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine) and numeracy (WRAT3 - Wide Range Achievement Test), researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center surveyed 200 primary care patients from a wide socioeconomic range. A Nutrition Label Survey (NLS), designed with input from registered dietitians, primary care providers, and experts in health literacy/numeracy to evaluate patient understanding of current nutrition labels, was used to measure comprehension of current food nutrition labels. One part of the NLS asked subjects to interpret food labels, such as determining carbohydrate or caloric content of an amount of food consumed. The other part asked patients to choose which of two foods had more or less of a certain nutrient, giving patients a 50/50 chance to guess the correct food item. Also, half of the survey questions involved products that were clearly labeled on their package as "reduced carb," "low carb," or designed for "a low-carb diet."

Sixty-eight percent of patients had at least some college education, and 77% had at least 9th-grade level literacy skills. However, 63% of patients had less than 9th-grade numeracy skills. Over 40% had a chronic illness for which specific dietary intervention is important (e.g., hypertension, diabetes), and 23% reported being on a specific diet plan. Most patients reported using food labels and found labels easy to understand.

Overall, patients correctly answered 69% (SD 21%) of the NLS questions. For example, only 32% of patients could correctly calculate the amount of carbohydrates consumed in a 20-ounce bottle of soda that had 2.5 servings in the bottle. Only 60% of patients could calculate the number of carbohydrates consumed if they ate half a bagel, when the serving size was a whole bagel. Only 22% of patients could determine the amount of net carbohydrates in 2 slices of low-carb bread, and only 23% could determine the amount of net carbohydrates in a serving of low-carb spaghetti. Common reasons for incorrect responses included misapplication of the serving size, confusion by extraneous material on the food label, and incorrect calculations.

According to Russell L. Rothman, MD MPP, "The study showed that many patients struggle to understand current food labels, and that this can be particularly challenging for patients with poor literacy and numeracy (math) skills. Poor understanding of nutrition labels can make it difficult for patients to follow a good diet. Of particular concern are situations that involve interpretation and application of serving size. There are many opportunities for health care providers to improve how they talk to patients about using food labels and following diets. There are also opportunities for the FDA to improve how food labels are designed in order to improve how patients take care of their nutrition

The article is "Patient Understanding of Food Labels: The Role of Literacy and Numeracy" by Russell L. Rothman, MD MPP, Ryan Housam, BS, Hilary Weiss, BS, Dianne Davis, RD CDE, Rebecca Gregory, MS RD CDE, Tebeb Gebretsadik MPH, Ayumi Shintani, PHD MPH, and Tom A. Elasy, MD MPH.

The article appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 31, Issue 5 (November 2006) published by Elsevier.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Elsevier Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Elsevier Health Sciences. "Understanding Food Nutrition Labels Challenging For Many People." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060926072110.htm>.
Elsevier Health Sciences. (2006, September 26). Understanding Food Nutrition Labels Challenging For Many People. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060926072110.htm
Elsevier Health Sciences. "Understanding Food Nutrition Labels Challenging For Many People." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060926072110.htm (accessed March 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

AFP (Mar. 28, 2015) Sierra Leone imposed a three-day nationwide lockdown Friday for the second time in six months in a bid to prevent a resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus. Duration: 01:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
These Popular Antibiotics Can Cause Permanent Nerve Damage

These Popular Antibiotics Can Cause Permanent Nerve Damage

Newsy (Mar. 27, 2015) A popular class of antibiotic can leave patients in severe pain and even result in permanent nerve damage. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WH Plan to Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Germs

WH Plan to Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Germs

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) The White House on Friday announced a five-year plan to fight the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria amid fears that once-treatable germs could become deadly. (March 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

AP (Mar. 26, 2015) In rare bipartisan harmony, congressional leaders pushed a $214 billion bill permanently blocking physician Medicare cuts toward House passage Thursday, moving lawmakers closer to resolving a problem that has plagued them for years. (March 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins