Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are a major factor in the obesity epidemic among both children and adults. Fruit-flavored drinks with added sugar (“fruit drinks”) are by far the most popular SSB among children.
In a new study, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined how adding vitamin claims, fruit images and health warnings to the labels of fruit drinks affected consumers’ perceptions.
Dr. Marissa Hall, assistant professor of health behavior at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, was first author of the study. Other authors from the Gillings School include senior author Dr. Lindsey Smith Taillie, with the Gillings School’s nutrition department, and Dr. Anna Grummon, a recent graduate of the Gillings School’s health behavior department.
In a series of three studies surveying a total of 3,815 adults, participants viewed images of fruit drinks with different combinations of a “100% vitamin C” claim, a fruit image or a health warning. On average, participants who saw the vitamin C claim believed the drink was healthier than those who did not see the claim; they also were more interested in consuming the drink. The health warning had the opposite effect, with participants feeling the drink was less healthy and having less desire to consume it. The fruit image had no effect on either measure.
Together, the studies support policies to restrict marketing and require health warnings on sugar-sweetened beverage packaging.
“Given the strong link between sugary drinks and a host of health problems, we need policy action now — especially for sugary fruit drinks that seem much healthier than they are,” Dr. Hall said.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on April 03