Could restaurant sugar labels curb patrons’ sweet tooth?

Could restaurant sugar labels curb patrons’ sweet tooth?

If you’ve ever seen one of those photos or videos demonstrating the amount of added sugar in a full-bodied soda, it’s enough to jolt you into ordering a water, instead.

And because as a nation, we collectively consume way too much of the sweet stuff and rely heavily on restaurants to do the cooking for us, a University of California, Davis research team set out to look at restaurant warning labels that might clue us in about how much sugar we’re consuming.

Excess added sugar is a leading driver of Type 2 diabetes. And when just one soda can offer more added sugar than the recommended daily allowance for healthy adults, perhaps we could all use a little guidance.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires large chain restaurants to make some nutrition information available to patrons. But there is no such requirement about added sugar.

New York City recently passed a law that will require added-sugar warnings on prepackaged chain-restaurant menu items.

Policymakers in other parts of the country may follow suit.

The UC Davis team in 2021 surveyed more than 1,300 adults. The researchers found that warnings with icons plus text, or icons only, were effective at getting the message across to people.

The icons resembled stop, yield and caution traffic signs.

There were no significant differences in how people perceived the icon-only and icon-plus-text labels, but 80% of the participants supported adding the warnings to restaurant menus.

The researchers said sugar-warning menu labels might bring about change in another way: If patrons stop ordering the high-sugar items, restaurants might have reason to offer more healthful options.

And wouldn’t that be sweet?

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