U.K. researchers have published a meta-analysis in The BMJ asserting that physical activity calorie equivalent (PACE) labeling on food packaging “may reduce the number calories selected from menus and decrease the number of calories/grams of food consumed by the public, compared with other types of food labelling/no labelling.” Daley et al., “Effects of physical activity calorie equivalent food labelling to reduce food selection and consumption: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled studies,” The BMJ, December 10, 2019. The researchers identified 15 studies on PACE labeling and reportedly found that the technique may have caused the study participants to choose meals that contained 65 fewer calories on average compared to participants not exposed to PACE labels.

“Most people eat three meals per day (plus two snacks); based on our findings for the number of calories consumed after exposure to PACE labelling (−65 calories), PACE labelling could potentially reduce calorie intake by up to 195 calories per day (−65×3 meals per day=~195 calories), although across repeated meals/snacks and over time this effect is likely to be reduced,” the researchers argue. “PACE labelling is a simple strategy that could be easily included on food/beverage packaging by manufacturers, on shelving price labels in supermarkets and/or on menus in restaurants/fast-food outlets. When a consumer sees a visual symbol that denotes it will take 4 hours to walk off a pizza and only 15 min to burn off a salad, this in theory should create an awareness of the ‘energy cost’ of food/drink.”

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