Study reveals graphic labels on junk food could curb unhealthy cravings

How would you feel if you went to buy a chocolate bar at the supermarket and were greeted with a confronting image of tooth decay on the packet?

Would it persuade you to put it back on the shelf and make a healthier snack choice?

The University of Melbourne and Cancer Council Victoria believes it would, after their study found graphic warning labels actually altered people’s food choices.


The study, which was published in the NeuroImage: Clinical, and Appetite on Thursday, asked 95 hungry participants to rate on a scale which snack they would want to eat the most at the end of the experiment.

They were shown colour pictures of 50 different foods ranging from chips, chocolate bars and biscuits to nuts, fruits and vegetables.

They were then presented with a number of different health warnings and were again asked to rate a similar set of food options.

In the end, the study found that warnings with negative text combined with imagery encouraged people to swap their initial choice for a healthier option.

Interestingly, the participants brain activity was also monitored throughout the process, with the results showing that the “warning labels prompted participants to exercise more self-control, rather than act on impulse.”

“The study shows that if you want to stop people choosing fatty and sugary packaged foods, health warnings actually work,” study co-author Dr Stefan Bode said.

“It sheds light on the mechanisms in the brain that underlie the effects of health warning messages on food processing.”