A Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) team reports in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that the previously reported changes in the proportions of more and less healthy foods purchased in the months after their program began have persisted up to two years after the labeling intervention was introduced.
"Our current results show that the significant changes in the purchase patterns of both hospital employees and all customers resulting from the labels and the choice architecture program did not fade away as cafeteria patrons became used to them," says Anne Thorndike, MD, MPH, of the MGH Division of General Medicine, who led the study. "This is good evidence that these changes in healthy choices persist over time."
Initiated in March of 2010, the program was developed by the research team – including leaders of the MGH Food and Nutrition Service – to deliver information about healthy food choices in a simplified way that did not require reading and understanding detailed food labels. The first phase involved the application of "traffic light" labels – green for the healthiest items, such as fruits, vegetables and lean sources of protein; yellow for less healthy items, and red for those with little or no nutritional value – to all items in the main hospital cafeteria. Several weeks before the labels were introduced, cafeteria cash registers began to identify and record each purchased item as red, yellow or green.
The second "choice architecture" phase, started three months after the labels were introduced, focused on cold beverages, pre-made sandwiches and chips – all of which were rearranged to display more healthful items where they were most likely to be selected. For example, bottled water, diet beverages and low-fat dairy products were positioned at eye level, while beverages with yellow or red labels were placed at lower levels.
As the team reported in the March 2012 American Journal of Public Health, at the end of the initial six-month study period, the program led to significant increases in the purchases of "green" items and reduced purchases of "red" items, with the largest changes in beverage purchases. A subsequent study in the September 2012 American Journal of Preventive Medicine, focused on employees enrolled in a program in which their meals could be paid by payroll deduction, revealed similar changes in purchase patterns across all racial and ethnic groups as well as job types.
The current study analyzed purchase patterns for the 24 months following the program's implementation and found that the changes present at the end of the first year were virtually unchanged at the end of the second. Overall, purchases of "green" items had increased 12 percent, compared with the pre-intervention period, and "red" item purchases dropped 20 percent. Purchases of "red" beverages – primarily sugar-sweetened beverages – dropped 39 percent, while "green" beverage purchases increased 10 percent. The changes remained similar for all types of employees, and overall cafeteria sales during the two-year period were stable.
"These findings are the most important of our research thus far because they show a food labeling and product placement intervention can promote healthy choices that persist over the long term, with no evidence of 'label fatigue,' " says Thorndike, an assistant professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "The next steps will be to develop even more effective ways to promote healthy choices through the food service environment and translate these strategies to other worksite, institutional or retail settings."
Co-authors of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine article are Lillian Sonnenberg, DSc, RD, MGH Nutrition and Food Service; Douglas Levy, PhD, Mongan Institute for Health Policy at MGH; and Jason Riis, PhD, Harvard Business School. The study was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Donoghue Foundation, and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grant K23 HL93221.
Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of more than $775 million and major research centers in AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, human genetics, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, systems biology, transplantation biology and photomedicine.
Cassandra Aviles | EurekAlert!
Routing gene therapy directly into the brain
07.12.2017 | Boston Children's Hospital
New Hope for Cancer Therapies: Targeted Monitoring may help Improve Tumor Treatment
01.12.2017 | Berliner Institut für Gesundheitsforschung / Berlin Institute of Health (BIH)
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.
The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences
11.12.2017 | Information Technology