The Royal Society for Public Health in Britain has put forward an argument that food be labelled with the amount of exercise one will need to engage in to burn off the included calories. Writing in the British Medical Journal, the chief executive of RSPH Shirley Cramer made the call for the introduction of activity equivalent calorie labeling which will have symbols depicting the minutes of certain types of exercises that you will require to burn the product’s calories.
Cramer writing in the BMJ puts forward the aim for activity equivalent labeling as such; “The aim is to prompt people to be more mindful of the energy they consume and how these calories relate to activities in their everyday lives, to encourage them to be more physically active”. He also insists that front of pack labeling needs to be as simple as possible.
Considering that most people do not actually understand the gram measurement labeling which is currently used on most food packs, his point of simplicity is easily understood; “Given its simplicity, activity equivalent calorie labeling offers a recognizable reference, accessible to everyone”. He also gives examples like; “the calories in a can of fizzy drink take a person of average age and weight about 26 minutes to walk off.”
Despite the easily understood points made above, a number of nutritionists are against the idea, insisting that it would basically involve making generalizations on the time it takes to burn calories. Thomas Sander a former head of Nutritional Sciences Division at Kings College London told Mashable that he believed it would be a bad idea. He said; “It seems a daft idea as a significant proportion of caloric intake is used to support basal metabolism i.e. breathing and staying alive, which is typically between 1200-1500 kcal/d”.
Sanders also worried that such labeling would encourage eating disorders. Dr Jemima Stockton from the Research Associate at UCL’s Epidemiology and Public Health Department also considered the notion unfavorably saying that a one-size-fits-all approach to calories does not work. To buttress her stand, she gave this example; “a heavier person will burn the same number of calories in a weight-bearing physical activity like jogging in less time than a lighter person because they will be carrying more weight”.
All the experts aside, if you saw a label that put the amount of exercise you needed to burn that serving of cake or whatever your preference is at 60 minutes, would it influence your consumption of that item? Would an activity equivalent help us in any way?