Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Traffic light food labels strengthen self-control

09.03.2015

Should food products be labeled with traffic light symbols to make health-related information on ingredients easier to understand? This question has remained a subject of debate. Now researchers at the University of Bonn have reached the conclusion that the traffic light label is more effective in helping consumers resist high-calorie foods than a purely information-based label. Scientists observed study participants in the brain scanner as they made purchase decisions. The study has just been published in the journal Obesity.

Red, yellow, green: The traffic signal labels on packages are supposed to be an easy-to-understand indication of the overall “healthiness” of a food product. For example, "red" symbolizes a high percentage of fat, sugar or salt, "green" a lower percentage. Just as on an actual traffic light, yellow falls in the middle. "


Prof. Dr. Bernd Weber and Laura Enax of the Center for Economics and Neuroscience (CENs) at the University of Bonn evaluate brain scanner data.

(c) Photo: Uni Bonn

This is the first study that analyzes the effect that traffic light signals have on the evaluation processes in the consumer's brain when making a purchase decision", says Prof. Dr. Bernd Weber of the Center for Economics and Neuroscience (CENs) at the University of Bonn. Do the "traffic lights" help consumers choose a healthier diet when grocery shopping? Scientists from the CENs have addressed this question in a recent study.

100 products – from chocolate to ready-to-serve meals

A total of 35 adult study participants, 19 of which were women, participated in the study at the Life & Brain Center in Bonn. 100 products and their nutritional information were shown to the participants lying in the brain scanner – from chocolate to yogurt to ready-to-serve meals. The participants were shown this information either in the form of currently used nutrition labels with grams and percentages per portion, or in the form of traffic light labels. Then participants had to indicate how much they were willing to pay for a particular product.

The participants were willing to pay significantly more money for the same product when the traffic light label was "green" compared to an information-based label. However, if the label was "red", the willingness to pay decreased more compared to the conventional information. "You can conclude that the traffic light label acts as a reinforcer: The health relevance of the ingredients is weighed more heavily into purchasing decisions compared to simple nutrition information", says first author Laura Enax of CENs.

Two brain regions affect the reward system

While study participants were thinking about what price they wanted to pay for a particular product, the scientists recorded the activity of various brain regions using functional magnetic resonance imaging. A red traffic light label activated a structure in the left inferior frontal gyrus, which has been repeatedly shown to be important for self-control. Activity in this region influenced the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region that “calculates” the subjective value of a product via the reward system, leading to decreased willingness to pay for unhealthy products.

"The traffic light label appears to enable the study participants to better resist unhealthy foods compared to a label containing the traditional information on grams and percentages of the particular ingredients. A traffic light label probably implicitly increases the weight consumers place on healthiness in their decision", says Prof. Weber, summarizing the result. The scientists at the University of Bonn now want to examine more closely how different types of food labels can be used to support consumers in their decision-making.

Publication: Nutrition labels influence value computation of food products in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, "Obesity", 10.1002/oby.21027

Media Contact:

Prof. Dr. Bernd Weber
Center for Economics and Neuroscience
Life & Brain Center
at the University of Bonn
Tel. +49-(0)228-6885262
E-mail: bernd.weber@ukb.uni-bonn.de

Johannes Seiler | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.uni-bonn.de/

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika

23.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Melting solid below the freezing point

23.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>