Will Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent (PACE) Labelling Help Tackle the Current Obesity Crisis?

According to the Government Office for Science, 60% of men and 50% of women are predicted to be obese by 2050. With the obesity crisis on the rise, the Government cannot tackle this alone. Food and drink manufacturers must help by taking responsibility for their labelling on food packaging and support the public in making healthier choices.

In 2016, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) published research on how psychical activity calorie equivalent (PACE) labelling can encourage people to make healthier choices. This followed the UK Governments introduction of the 2013 voluntary front-of-pack nutrition labelling scheme.

According to the RSPH research, 56% of people use front-of-pack labelling on food products to decide what they purchase, which suggests that adding PACE labels to the nutritional information could have a large impact on public choices. People were three times more likely to undertake physical activity after viewing PACE labels over the current traffic light information.

The 2016 study welcomed further research regarding PACE labelling, which Loughborough University undertook last year, with positive results for the PACE labelling argument. Their research suggested that if PACE labelling was used, it could potentially lower people’s daily calorie intake by up to 200 calories.

Professor Daley, who headed up the research team said: “The evidence shows that even a relatively small reduction in daily calorie intake (100 calories) combined with a sustained increase in physical activity is likely to be good for health and could help curb obesity at the population level. PACE labelling may help people achieve this.”

However, some experts disagree. Dietician Rachael Hartley suggests that PACE labelling could harm those people at risk of poor nutrition, such as those in poverty, or individuals who are at risk of eating disorders.

“It sends a message that you have to earn food,” Hartley told Insider. “When people focus on calories, it can end up meaning they focus on what is the smallest amount they can physically eat, instead of how they can nourish their body adequately”

The NHS has also weighed in on the pros and cons of PACE labelling, breaking down the research for those who want to read a balanced report on both the RSPH and Loughborough University studies. They have concluded that while PACE labelling could be an extra tool in the battle, it is not the complete answer to a healthy diet.

You can read the full NHS report here.

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