• One soda could contain daily amount of added sugar for kids
  • Despite health ad campaigns obesity rate is climbing and climbing
  • But new research shows warning labels on drinks will drive down sales 

Mia De Graaf For Dailymail.com


Teenagers are more likely to avoid sugary drinks if there is a health warning on the label, a new study shows.

The finding is welcome news for public health officials as obesity rates appear to be rocketing – even despite ad campaigns warning against too much fat and sugar. 

Just last week, new CDC data revealed that at least 20 per cent of every US state is obese, with the figure set to rise. 

But according to new research by the University of Pennsylvania, health warnings on food labels could act as a significant first step to combat the epidemic.   

Young people surveyed for the study were more than 15 per cent less likely to purchase soft drinks that included health warning labels.

Teens are 15 per cent less likely to purchase soft drinks that include health warning labels

Researchers used an online survey to gauge the favorite drinks of more than 2,000 participants aged between 12 and 18 and from diverse backgrounds.

The beverages included either no label at all, or one of five warning labels – one featuring calorie content, and four displaying a variation of warning text.

Overall, 77 per cent of participants who saw no label said they would select a sugary drink in a hypothetical choice task. 

Warning labels indicated that consumption of sugary drinks contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.

There were slight variations in wording – such as emphasizing that these conditions are ‘preventable diseases’ or clarifying that consuming sugary drinks contributes to ‘type 2 diabetes’. 

Depending on the specific phrasing of the warning labels, participants were eight to 16 per cent less likely to select sugary beverages when health warning labels were present compared to no label.

The authors noted that the warning labels also made teenagers more aware of the potentially negative effects of drinking soda.

When faced with health warnings, participants said they felt that drink would make them unhealthy.

Just last week, new CDC data revealed that at least 20 per cent of every US state is obese

Additionally, the majority of participants (62 per cent) said they would support a warning label policy for sugary drinks.

‘The influence of warning labels on the purchasing intentions of teenagers in this study highlights the need for nutrition information at the point of purchase to help people make healthier choices,’ said co-author Dr Eric VanEpps, a researcher at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

‘This study shows that warning labels can affect teenagers’ beverage preferences, and future research will be needed to determine whether these labels are similarly effective in more typical purchasing environments.’

The study is among the first to examine how warning labels on sugary drinks influence teens.

It builds on research published by the team earlier this year which showed that parents were less likely to select sugary drinks for their kids if they had labels about the dangers of added sugar. 

The new study is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and has significant implications for policies being considered in several states and cities to require sugary drinks to display health warning labels.

‘The average teen in the United States consumes at least one sugar-sweetened beverage every day, which could account for more than twice the recommended daily serving of sugar,’ said lead author Dr Christina Roberto, PhD, an assistant professor at the Perelman School of Medicine.

‘The rate of sugar consumption in the U.S. is astounding and contributes significantly to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other dangerous and costly health conditions.’   


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