Post #49: Mind that extra mince pie

In much of the world, the next two weeks or so will comprise a lot of eating and drinking. Sure, December is a time for good cheer and celebration, but several recent research reports have suggested that food packaging should display how much exercise a person might need to take in order to burn off the product’s calories. Controversial? Yes. Effective? To be determined.

Let’s consider the statistics. A typical chocolate bar contains 200-250 calories. Assuming a standard walking speed, it would take an average person 40-50 minutes to burn the calories from that bar off. If you wanted to be more adventurous and decide to run it off, the number of minutes of required exercise might halve. Have four hours to spare walking? Then, it’s OK to eat all of that standard 12-inch pizza (statistics courtesy of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health).

Certainly no one is actually suggesting a brisk walk after every snack and maybe a longer jog after a hearty meal. Nonetheless, a meta-analysis by Loughborough University of 14 separate studies considering the impact of different food labelling on behaviour concludes that more informative food labelling could reduce daily calorific intake by up to 10%.

This matters since 650m adults and 120m children currently suffer from obesity. More shockingly, it is estimated that the annual global cost of obesity totals $2tr(all data per the World Health Organisation). While many businesses are active in the field of improved drug development to help manage obesity (Novo Nordisk is a good example), much academic research is also supportive of the idea that behavioural factors can have an impact. Improved diet choices and more exercise would be obviously beneficial. Per the well-known slogan of Tesco, ‘every little helps.’


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