There’s been lots of talk recently about a new study showing that people (especially women) who read food labels at the grocery store tend to weigh less than their non-label reading counterparts. No big surprise. People who are more educated and health-conscious are probably going to have lower levels of body fat and to weigh less than people who are not concerned about their weight.
What’s irking me is the approach being taken to some of this media coverage. A recent article in Chatelaine online was titled Lose nine pounds by doing this simple task. Not exactly. Just because women who read labels weigh, on average, nine pounds less than women who don’t read labels doesn’ t mean that you’ll lose nine pounds by starting to read labels. For one thing, you need to know how to read labels. Just reading something isn’t going to help. You need to be able to use the information that you’re reading to make informed decisions. Also, perhaps there is more to the lack of label reading than simply not doing it. The study found that label readers were also more educated than non-label readers. It’s entirely possible that there may be low literacy levels or other reading and comprehension problems that may be preventing people from reading labels. Finally, label reading was correlated with other healthy behaviours. It’s difficult to tease these apart which makes it hard to say that the weight difference is due to label reading alone.
What ever the reason is for people not reading labels, simply telling them to do so is extremely unlikely to result in a nine pound weight loss per person.