We assume that, given the choice between a sugary drink and water, most teenagers would pick the former over the latter. But a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that teens who understand the calorie count in sugary drinks often choose water instead. This sends out the message that dispensing proper information can help teenagers choose healthier options.

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Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health tried to find out if giving teenagers clear caloric information about their preferred sodas and juice drinks would have an effect on the number of sales in neighborhood stores. Sara Bleich, PhD, assistant professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of Health Policy and Management, believes that consumers don’t exactly know just how many calories they are taking in and that "providing easily understandable caloric information--particularly in the form of a physical activity equivalent, such as running--may reduce calorie intake from sugar-sweetened beverages and increase water consumption among low-income black adolescents."

The study focused on four corner stores in low-income neighborhoods in Baltimore, Maryland, where three types of caloric information were then randomly posted: "Did you know that a bottle of soda or fruit juice has about 250 calories?" (absolute caloric count); "Did you know that a bottle of soda or fruit juice has about 10 percent of your daily calories?" (percentage of total recommended daily intake); and "Did you know that working off a bottle of soda or fruit juice takes about 50 minutes of running?" (physical activity equivalent).

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Based on the results, researchers were able to determine that the caloric information they posted reduced purchases of sweetened beverages down to 40 percent and of the three types of caloric information, the physical activity equivalent ranked as the most effective.

While the experiment was small-scale and limited only to Baltimore, the idea of putting out correct and easily understandable information does have its merits. The more teenagers know about a particular issue, the more informed decisions they’ll be able to make.


Encourage your kids to eat healthy with these articles:

(Photo source: sxc.hu)

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