-- Randy Dotinga
TUESDAY, Jan. 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Hospitals might be
able to coax cafeteria customers to buy healthier food by adjusting
item displays to have traffic light-style green, yellow and red
labels based on their level of nutrition, new research
"Our current results show that the significant changes in the purchase patterns ... did not fade away as cafeteria patrons became used to them," study lead author Dr. Anne Thorndike, of the division of general medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in a hospital news release. "This is good evidence that these changes in healthy choices persist over time."
As part of the study, labels -- green, yellow or red -- appeared
on all foods in the main hospital cafeteria. Fruits, vegetables and
lean sources of protein got green labels, while red ones appeared
on junk food.
The cafeteria also underwent a redesign to display healthier
food products in locations -- such as at eye level -- that were
more likely to draw the attention of customers.
The study showed that the changes appeared to produce more
purchases of healthy items and fewer of unhealthy items --
especially beverages. Green-labeled items sold at a 12 percent
higher rate compared to before the program, and sales of
red-labeled items dropped by 20 percent during the two-year study.
Sales of the unhealthiest beverages fell by 39 percent.
"These findings are the most important of our research thus far because they show a food-labeling and product-placement intervention can promote healthy choices that persist over the long term, with no evidence of 'label fatigue,'" said Thorndike, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
"The next steps will be to develop even more effective ways to promote healthy choices through the food-service environment and translate these strategies to other worksite, institutional or retail settings," she said.
The study was published in the current issue of the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
For more about
nutrition, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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