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Is it enough to count the calories?

Health, Marketing, Psychology

Branwen Jeffreys closed her report for BBC Breakfast this morning with wise words about the new food labels system:

“What we choose to eat has a direct effect on our health. Doctors warned that giving us more information is only one part of changing our habits.”

There is no doubt that more information is a good thing – the recent horse meat scandal proved that – but the evidence for food labeling is mixed.

Here are a few links related to the debate:

1. Can a change in portion size transform our bad food habits?

Oliver Payne provides a great overview of the evidence related to calorie information on menus and raises the point that changes in portion size and price may be more effective.

2. Promoting healthier choices: Information vs. convenience

Jessica Wisdom, Julie Downs and George Loewenstein investigate whether calorie consumption is effected more by calorie information or making the healthier option convenient.

3. Reduction in purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages among low-income black adolescents after exposure to caloric information

Sara Bleich et al investigate how beverage sales are effected  depending on whether calorie information is displayed as absolute count, percentage of recommended daily intake or physical activity equivalent.

4. The dieter’s paradox

Alexander Chernev discusses the common misbelief that eating healthy foods in addition to unhealthy ones can decrease the calorie count of a meal.

5. A simple weight loss strategy. Really. Maybe.

Wray Herbert pushes aside the biology and looks at the psychology of weight control, including the two major reasons for unhealthy weight: a lack of self-control and an inability to cope with stress.


We believe the only way to solve this problem is to continue to research, design and test ways of guiding and supporting people in first valuing their health, and then achieving their desired health goals.

© 2015 Warwick Business School and the Design Council