Color-Coded Nutrition Facts May Confuse Rather Than Inform Consumers

Nutrition Facts on food packages require some study in order to understand what it all means. The UK seeks to implement a new system, but it may make a diet soda look healthier than a basket of strawberries.

The obesity epidemic is well-known and countries are trying to do what they can to fight it. Peter Ubel of Forbes highlights a UK food labeling system that hopes to teach consumers to make healthier choices through color-coded labels. But some companies may be able to use this easy system to only further confuse and distract consumers from the real facts.


Nutrition labels require you to understand how much sugar is ok, the difference between saturated and monosaturated fats, and pay attention to serving size. Grocery shopping could easily become and all-day event if you stopped to read, compare, and research every item. Thankfully, British food companies are adopting what Ubel calls a kind of “stoplight system” for nutrition facts—an at-a-glance method of grouping the important nutrition bullet points and color-coding them. Red, yellow, and green labels will color certain nutrition categories to let buyers know what values are considered good, bad, or so-so.

The idea is if you buy a food with all or mostly green labels next to each category, you've made a healthy choice. However, there's a flaw in this quick and easy system. Ubel asks people to consider Coca Cola, for instance, which will be adopting the voluntary labels. Diet Coke and Coca Cola Zero products display all-green labels. These products are low in fat, sodium, and saturated fat, making it “[look] healthier than kale juice!” according to Ubel.

To him, the UK stoplight system is a step in the right direction to level the playing field for the health conscious and uninformed. But the truth is there's more nuance to nutrition than whether a product has lots of sugar or fat. In fact, he points to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that shows a diet low in carbohydrates is far more effective than one that's low in fat. After all, carbohydrates are broken down into sugar.

This system may not be perfect, but hardly anything is the first time around. The hope is the system will continue to evolve, and become more refined to meet consumer's informational and nutritional needs.

Read more at Forbes

Photo Credit: Julia Lamphear/Flickr

The 4 types of thinking talents: Analytic, procedural, relational and innovative

Understanding thinking talents in yourself and others can build strong teams and help avoid burnout.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to collaborate within a team and identify "thinking talent" surpluses – and shortages.
  • Angie McArthur teaches intelligent collaboration for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Do you have a self-actualized personality? Maslow revisited

Rediscovering the principles of self-actualisation might be just the tonic that the modern world is crying out for.

Personal Growth

Abraham Maslow was the 20th-century American psychologist best-known for explaining motivation through his hierarchy of needs, which he represented in a pyramid. At the base, our physiological needs include food, water, warmth and rest.

Keep reading Show less

Scientists reactivate cells from 28,000-year-old woolly mammoth

"I was so moved when I saw the cells stir," said 90-year-old study co-author Akira Iritani. "I'd been hoping for this for 20 years."

Yamagata et al.
Surprising Science
  • The team managed to stimulate nucleus-like structures to perform some biological processes, but not cell division.
  • Unless better technology and DNA samples emerge in the future, it's unlikely that scientists will be able to clone a woolly mammoth.
  • Still, studying the DNA of woolly mammoths provides valuable insights into the genetic adaptations that allowed them to survive in unique environments.
Keep reading Show less

Believe in soulmates? You're more likely to 'ghost' romantic partners.

Does believing in true love make people act like jerks?

Thought Catalog via Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • Ghosting, or cutting off all contact suddenly with a romantic partner, is not nice.
  • Growth-oriented people (who think relationships are made, not born) do not appreciate it.
  • Destiny-oriented people (who believe in soulmates) are more likely to be okay with ghosting.
Keep reading Show less