Background: As part of efforts to address high levels of overweight and obesity, the provision of nutrition information (e.g., through nutrition labels and nutrition claims) on food packages has increasingly become an important policy option. This study aimed to assess the influence of nutrition claims relating to fat, sugar, and energy content on product packaging on several aspects of food choices to understand how they contribute to the prevention of overweight and obesity.
Methods: A systematic literature review was conducted using the online databases EBSCOhost Global Health, EBSCOhost Medline, ScienceDirect, Scopus, PsycINFO and Embase. Studies were included if they measured the influence of nutrition claims relating to fat, sugar, and energy content on outcomes related to body weight, and were published between January 2003 and April 2018.
Results: Eleven studies were included in the review. Results showed that nutrition claims can influence the knowledge of consumers with respect to perceived healthfulness of products, as well as expected and experienced tastiness of food products - making food products with nutrition claims seem healthier and less tasty. Nutrition claims can make the appropriate portion size appear to be larger and lead to an underestimation of the energy content of food products. Nutrition claims can also influence food purchase intentions, moderated by the perceived healthfulness of the relevant food products and the health consciousness of individuals. Nutrition claims were also found to have an impact on food purchases, to influence 'consumption guilt' (i.e., feeling of guilt associated with eating), and to increase consumption, moderated by the weight status of individuals. These influences were shown to vary depending on the type of claim and food carrying the claim.
Conclusions: There is evidence that, while nutrition claims may lead some consumers to improve their nutrition knowledge and select healthier options, it may also lead consumers to increase food consumption and overall energy intake. This may run counter to efforts to address overweight and obesity.
Keywords: Energy intake; Food choices; Influence; Nutrition claims; Obesity; Overweight.