This has got to be the simplest weight loss trick ever: Read the nutrition labels.
That's right. An international team of scientists, using data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that people who paid attention to the nutrition labels on food weighed less than those who didn't.
For women, in particular, paying attention to those nutrition facts translated into an 8.6-pound difference over those who ignored them.
As reported in The Atlantic, the results come from more than 25,000 responses gathered from the National Health Interview Survey, an annual poll conducted by the CDC. Participants were asked questions about health, eating and shopping habits, including whether they read the nutritional information in supermarkets and how often.
The researchers found significant differences between those who read labels and those who skip them: City dwellers read them the most, smokers read them the least, and
women were much more likely to look at labels than men.
Across the country, 74 percent of women said they read labels versus only 58 percent of men.
Reading those labels also paid off more for women. Those who said they regularly paid attention to nutritional information had a lower body mass index -- a measure of body fat -- by 1.5 points on the BMI scale, compared with male label-readers, who had just 0.12 points lower.
Granted, this doesn't prove that reading labels will cause weight loss. People who read labels already may be more concerned with a healthy lifestyle and watching their weight, which could account for the weight difference.
But, as the researchers wrote, it does imply that urging people to pay attention to nutritional information can help in the fight in this country against obesity -- a problem that the CDC said will affect 40 percent of the population in the next 20 years.
The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural Economics.
In other health news:
Antioxidants help improve older men's sperm quality. Men age 45 and older who get enough antioxidants in their diets may have better genetic-quality sperm than men who are lacking in the nutrients, a new study suggests. Reuters reports that older men who got the most vitamins C and E, folate and zinc tended to have fewer DNA strand breaks in their sperm.
Quality-of-life program helps cancer patients. New research from the Mayo Clinic finds that a therapy program focused on improving quality of life can help people being treated for advanced cancer. The program involved a combination of physical and talk therapy, along with relaxation techniques and spiritual discussions.