Many people are unaware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s mandated nutrition labels are based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, but a simple weekly text message reminder can greatly improve that awareness, according to a new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
While not an outright recommendation, the 2,000-calorie benchmark is what the FDA considers a reasonable daily calorie intake for many adults. More importantly, nutrition labels on food products sold in the United States are based on it. The key to translating nutrition labels and using them to make healthy food choices, researchers say, may be an understanding of this basic fact.
The study, published online in Health Promotion Practice, surveyed 246 participants dining in the Johns Hopkins Hospital cafeteria to assess their initial knowledge of the 2,000-calorie value.
The cafeteria included calorie labels for food choices but no information on the daily context. Participants were then randomly assigned to receive either a weekly text message reminder, a weekly email reminder, or no weekly reminder about the 2,000-calorie value. Participants received the reminder messages each Monday for four weeks; after the four weeks, their knowledge of the 2,000-calorie value was assessed with a follow-up survey.
Prior to receiving the weekly reminders, 58 percent of participants could not correctly identify the 2,000-calorie value, even those with college or graduate degrees. After the study period, those receiving the weekly text messages were twice as likely to correctly identify the 2,000-calorie value as compared to those who received no weekly reminder.
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