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Research Updates | Obesity / Overweight

How much could warning labels on sugary drinks curb adolescent obesity?

19 / 02 / 18

To explore the impact of sweetened beverage warning labels at point-of-purchase in adolescents, agent-based simulation models were developed for three US cities: Baltimore, Philadelphia and San Francisco. The models contained data on populations, school locations and food sources collected between 2005 and 2014, and simulated mean changes in BMI and obesity prevalence in each city over 7 years of warning label policy implementation.

The result of the simulation was, based on an assumption that warning labels would reduce consumption by 8%, warning labels used at all food retailers lowered obesity prevalence in all three cities: Baltimore -1.69%; San Francisco -4.08%; and Philadelphia -2.17%. Label efficacy and literacy rate were identified as potential drivers of beneficial effects on overweight and obesity.

Warning labels have no effects on children who do not have basic reading skill, or when increases in compensatory eating occur.  As supermarket purchases comprise most of available food in homes, this setting represents a good target for a warning label intervention with limited funds.

Lee BY, Ferguson MC, Hertenstein DL et al. Simulating the impact of sugar-sweetened beverage warning labels in three cities. American Journal of Preventive Medicine (in press). DOI: