Reading nutrition labels helps people make healthy food choices, but it especially helps women stay slimmer, according to new research.

By Amy O'Connor
September 20, 2012
If you’re trying to cut back, you’ve probably already reduced the amount of coffee, tea, and sodas that you consume. But the sneaky stimulant can pop up in unexpected places. Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require manufacturers to list caffeine content on nutrition labels, it’s often hard to tell whether a product contains the stimulant, and how much. These 12 sources of caffeine—some hidden, some just plain weird—could be giving you the jitters.

You know those women at grocery stores who scrutinize the labels of every bag of chips and can of corn before buying? Nutrition Know-It-Alls? Maybe. But those same label-reading habits seem to be making them healthier and thinner.

Nutrition labels are great for heart patients checking sodium levels and people with diabetes who need to watch their carbs. And people who read food labels have healthier diets than those who don’t pay attention to such information.

But health experts have long wondered if federally mandated information on food ingredients could be useful in the management of obesity. According to a new study published in Agricultural Economics, the answer is yes—at least for women. Using behavioral data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers concluded that the average body mass index (BMI) of women who use nutritional labeling on foods for guidance is, on average, 1.49 points lower than those who don't (about 9 pounds).

Alas, men and some other demographic groups don't seem to get the same benefit, suggesting that labeling may need to expand to other food categories to affect larger segments of the population.

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