MONDAY, March 18 (HealthDay News) -- The color of calorie labels on food packaging may lead people to believe they're healthier than they actually are, according to a new study.

People tend to think a candy bar with a green calorie label is healthier than ones with red or white labels, even when the number of calories is the same, a Cornell University researcher found.

This effect was strongest among people who place high importance on healthy eating, according to the study, which was published recently in the journal Health Communication.

"More and more, calorie labels are popping up on the front of food packaging, including the wrappers of sugary snacks like candy bars. Currently, there's little oversight of these labels," Jonathon Schuldt, assistant professor of communication and director of Cornell's Social Cognition and Communication Lab, said in a university news release.

"Our research suggests that the color of calorie labels may have an effect on whether people perceive the food as healthy, over and above the actual nutritional information conveyed by the label, such as calorie content," he said.

The findings have implications for nutrition labeling, given that front-of-package calorie labels have become increasingly common in the United States.

"As government organizations including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration consider developing a uniform front-of-package labeling system for the U.S. marketplace, these findings suggest that the design and color of the labels may deserve as much attention as the nutritional information they convey," Schuldt said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation explains how to decipher food labels.