Shoppers who checked the dietary information on food packaging were found to be more than half a stone (9 lbs) lighter than people who didn’t.
The study used information from 25,640 American shoppers, which included questions about whether they checked the food labels on packaging – and how often.
"First, we analysed which was the profile of those who read the nutritional label when purchasing foods, and then we moved on to the relationship with their weight," said María Loureiro, lead author of the study which was published in the Agricultural Economics journal.
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The study also revealed that white, educated women who live in cities are most likely to check their food labels and therefore had the lowest levels of obesity.
It also found that women are more likely to check food labels than men. Whilst nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of women check the information on food packaging, only half (58 per cent) of men do the same.
This may contribute to the men in the study having a higher body mass index (BMI) on average than the women.
[Related article: Bacon ‘saltier than seawater’]Researchers also found that smokers are less likely to check food labels on packaging than non-smokers.
“Their lifestyle involves less healthy habits and, as a consequence, it could be the case that they are not so worried about the nutritional content of the food,” explained Professor Loureiro.
Fast food chain McDonald’s has just announced it will be adding calorie content information to its menus and now the team is calling on governments to use its data to tackle obesity.
"Campaigns and public policy can be designed to promote the use of nutritional labeling on menus at restaurants and other public establishments for the benefit of those who usually eat out,” she said.Do you check the dietary information on packaging?