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. "
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
Prof. Dr. Bernd Weber
Center for Economics and Neuroscience
Life & Brain Center
at the University of Bonn
Johannes Seiler | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Oxygen loss in the coastal Baltic Sea is “unprecedentedly severe”
05.07.2018 | European Geosciences Union
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
16.07.2018 | Life Sciences
16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences