According to the recent study conducted on teenagers’ purchasing habits, they bought fewer sugary drinks and more water when the signs were up.
As per the most effective sign, it took 5 miles to walk off the 250 calories in a sugary drink.
The study showed simple health messages worked, Public Health England, stated.
“People do not understand calorie content on its own on a label,” Dr. Sara Bleich, lead study author and associate professor at the Bloomberg School, John Hopkins University stated.
Our research discovered that, “When you explain calories in an easily understandable way like how many miles of walking is needed to burn them off, you can persuade behavior-change.”
The brightly colored signs were displayed in neighborhood corner shops in Baltimore for six weeks, in full view of young customers buying sugary drinks.
There are four different signs, displayed on the shops. Two translated the calories in the drinks into the amount of exercise needed to burn off those calories.
One sign illustrates that it would take 50 minutes of running to work off the 250 calories or 16 teaspoons of sugar – contained in a 590ml bottle of fizzy drink, sports drink or fruit juice and the remaining signs listed the sugar content of the drink and the calories contained in the drink.
In the UK, a can of 330ml of fizzy drink contains around 9 teaspoons of sugar.
In order to find out the impact of the signs, the researchers interviewed children aged between 12 and 18 years old leaving the shop. This study is published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Out of the 35% of those interviewed who said they saw the signs, 59% said they believed the sign and 40% said their behavior had changed as a consequence.
Before the signs were put up, 98% of drinks bought in the shops were sugary ones. After six weeks, this was reduced to 89%. Throughout the time the signs were on display, sales of larger bottles of fizzy drinks went down from 54% to 37% of all purchases. On the other hand, the percentage of teenagers who chose to buy no drink at all in the shops increased from 27% to 33%.
The study added that, the changing behavior continued for several weeks after the “exercise” signs were taken down.
Overall, more than 3,000 drinks purchases were observed by the research team.
“The findings could help in the fight against obesity. This is a very cheap way to get teenagers old enough to make their own purchases to drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages and they seem to be effective even after they are removed. Using these easy-to-understand and easy-to-install signs may help promote obesity-prevention or weight loss,” Dr Bleich stated.
“The study is quite interesting which reveals that we need to use a range of clear, simple messages to help people follow healthier diets, Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said.
He further added, “This is one of many possible approaches and PHE continues to keep the evidence base for behavior change under review.”
According to the PHE, Change4Life uses “sugar reveals” in its campaigns which have been proven to have an impact on a person’s drinks selection pattern.
“We all need to make sure we drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluids a day not from sugary drinks but from water, lower fat milk, no added sugar or sugar-free drinks,” Dr Tedstone stated.
Any technique that eventually helps in order to draw attention to the dangers of consuming too many calories – was “a good thing, especially if it converts awareness into people taking positive action and switching to less calorific drinks” Kawther Hashem, a nutritionist at campaign group Action on Sugar stated.
She further added, it was also important that soft drink manufacturers were made to lessen the sugar content of their drinks. 1/4 of all adults and one in five children in the UK are classified as obese.