With obesity, heart disease, and diabetes still on the rise in the United States, experts are continually trying to come up with new and different ways to help Americans make healthier choices about what they eat—and researchers from the University of Illinois believe they may be getting closer to a solution.
Following a pair of recent experiments carried out in a cafeteria setting, the researchers believe consumers are likely to make healthier choices when nutrition information is presented graphically as opposed to numerically or not at all.
In the first experiment, participants were asked to recall nutritional information (in this case calories, fiber, and protein) after viewing it two different ways: either as a 2-dimensional graph or numerically. The graphical format was the clear winner, with participants’ ability to remember the nutrition data improved by up to 43 percent.
The second experiment followed roughly the same format, but over the course of several weeks researchers alternated between using the 2D graph, the numerical display, and providing no information at all. Overall, participants ate fewer calories, made healthier choices, and consumed more protein per calorie when the graph was present.
“Current nutrition labels provide comprehensive nutrient information, but unfortunately they’re not working for consumers to help them make decisions in restaurants and grocery stores,” said lead author Dr. Manabu T. Nakamura. He hopes a graph similar to the one he and his team created may one day be used to help Americans make healthier choices.