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Adding Warning Labels to Soda Cans can Deter Parents from Buying, Study Finds

Update Date: Jan 14, 2016 11:30 AM EST

Health warning labels on sugar-sweetened beverages can influence parents' shopping habits, a new study found.

For this research, the team from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania headed by Christina Roberto, recruited 2,381 parents online. The parents all had at least one child that was between the ages of six and 11. The researchers created an online shopping scenario where the parents had to purchase beverages for their children.

Before the shopping began, parents were divided into six different groups. Depending on the group, the parents either saw no label, a label listing calories, or a health warning label that addressed one of these sugar-related problems: weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes or tooth decay.

The researchers found that 60 percent of parents who did not see a label at all ended up buying a sugary drink. This rate fell to 40 percent in parents who saw a health warning label. In the group of parents who saw the label with caloric information, 53 percent chose to buy a sugary beverage.

"Regardless of the specific wording, results show that adding health warning labels to SSBs [sugar sweetened beverages] may be an important and impactful way to educate parents about the potential health risks associated with regular consumption of these beverages, and encourage them to make fewer of these purchases," Roberto said reported in the press release. "The findings are in line with similar studies conducted on the effects of warning labels on tobacco products, which have been shown to increase consumer knowledge of health risks related to tobacco use, and encourage smoking cessation."

The researchers noted that even though the labels affected some parents, too many of them were still choosing sugary drinks, which can be detrimental to their children's health.

"It appears some will take the information to heart, but about 40 percent still chose sugary beverages in the study," Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, commented reported by HealthDay via U.S. News and World Report. "That is still a big number. Nonetheless, it adds another layer of educating and influencing parents to try to make healthier choices for their children. The challenge will be getting something like this into policy."

The study's findings were published in the journal, Pediatrics.

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