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Tackling Obesity: What we learned from nutrition labelling research

Nutrition label montage

At the end of June we co-hosted a ‘meeting-of-the-minds’ at the Psychology Department of Stirling University. The event aimed at developing multidisciplinary understanding and communication between stakeholders who are working to tackle obesity in Scotland.

The impact of nutritional labelling on food purchasing and consumption behaviour was the topic of the day. Attendees also found out about the interests and motivations of different stakeholders and had a chance to learn from the experience of experts. The meeting was designed to promote networking and help to shape communication and knowledge sharing within the proposed alliance to tackle obesity in Scotland.


After ‘speed-dating’ introductions, Professor Linda Bauld, Director of the Institute for Social Marketing at the University Stirling, discussed what those working to tackle obesity in Scotland can learn from the alliance against tobacco.

This was followed by presentations on the impact of nutritional labelling on behaviour.

  • Dr Seda Erdem from University of Stirling spoke about how our choices are influenced by food marketing and labelling, explaining her hot-off-the-press research which tracked eye movements when looking at food packaging.
  • Dr Julia Allan from University of Aberdeen talked about how to nudge people to make healthier choices. A simple scale showing calorie content of foods and drinks in a university canteen resulted in an average consumer buying 66kcal less every day. Accumulated over a year that could prevent a person from gaining 6lb!
  • Dr Rachel Crockett from the Psychology Department of University of Stirling finished the morning session with a passionate talk on how to modify the world around us to promote healthy choices, all supported by the evidence on nutritional labelling.
  • Dr Stephan Dombrowski from the University of Stirling rounded off the morning talks in humourous style!

We led the afternoon session, with workshops on joint working and knowledge sharing. Attendees’ role-played scenarios that required finding solutions to a problem. What we saw was that while it may be difficult to agree, it is important to talk and understand others, and while all roles are difficult and there is not always enough evidence, links between research and policy are crucial.

Take home messages from the day:

  • Lessons from tobacco showed that many small steps are a key to change; labelling should be one of the steps to transforming the obesogenic environment into one that promotes healthy weight
  • An obesity alliance in Scotland needs to keep effective communication at its heart
  • Researchers and policy makers must work together to make sure that the evidence needed to tackle obesity is available

A big thank you to University of Stirling Psychology Department for hosting a great event!


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