Are You a Healthy Grocery Shopper?

A study reveals that in-person supermarket education affects healthful food purchases

Philadelphia, PA, May 3, 2012 – Shop the perimeter and avoid center isles, don’t buy anything at eye level, investigate the label. Grocery shopping can be a daunting task. Moreover, studies have shown that Americans obtain most of their food from grocery stores and their shopping habits are predictive of their consumption of fruits, vegetables, and sugared soft drinks. Many grocery stores are taking an active role in helping consumers make healthful food choices. You may have even seen your grocery store use a nutritional score placed right on the shelf’s price label for a food item. The question asked in a study published in the May/June 2012 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior is ”who knows how to use these grocery store shelf signs?”

Investigators from Arizona State University and University of Arizona College of Medicine–Phoenix recruited 153 shoppers at a grocery chain. The control group received no healthful grocery store shopping information except for the usual information provided at this grocery chain, which included 600 shelf signs placed below food items. Shelf signs at the grocery chain identify food items that are considered a ‘‘healthier option,’’ ‘‘heart healthy,’’ ‘‘low sodium,’’ ‘‘calcium rich,’’ or an ‘‘immune booster,’’ according to the Food and Drug Administration labeling regulations and the American Heart Association guidelines. The intervention group received an in-person counseling component provided by a nutrition educator and delivered in less than 10 minutes. In that time, the nutrition educator provided an overview of nutrition label reading and instructions on how to use the 5 nutrition shelf signs emphasizing foods included in the Heart Healthy (shopping for nonfat and low-fat dairy products, leaner beef and pork, vegetable oil, and other sources of healthy fats) and Immune Booster (increasing fruit and vegetable purchasing, especially dark-green, orange, red, and yellow colors) signs.

After the study participants had finished grocery shopping, the investigators assessed their shopping basket for total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, fruit, vegetables, and dark green and bright-yellow vegetables. The investigators found that in-person counseling resulted in greater purchasing of healthful food items such as fruit and green and yellow vegetables.

Dr. Brandy-Joe Milliron, the lead author of this article, states, “Previous point of purchase supermarket interventions, price discounts, advertisements, coupons, recipe fliers, store signage, and food demonstrations have had modest effects on food purchasing patterns. Therefore, we sought to test the effect of a point of purchase intervention with in-person counseling from a nutrition educator on food purchasing patterns. Food purchasing patterns are predictive of actual dietary intake, and even the modest effects from our study could translate into meaningful health benefits if sustained long term.”

Dr. Bradley M. Appelhans, the principal investigator of this study adds, “The ubiquity of inexpensive, palatable, energy-dense food is considered a primary contributor to the obesity epidemic, and a number of obesity-reducing modifications to the obesity-promoting environment have been proposed. Interventions aimed at promoting more healthful food purchasing patterns represent a promising approach to reducing obesity but have been relatively understudied.”

“The bottom line, encouraging the feasibility of supermarket interventions, such as that in our study, assists shoppers in choosing healthful options,” conclude the investigators.

 

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Notes for editors
“A Point-of-Purchase Intervention Featuring In-Person Supermarket Education Affects Healthful Food Purchases” by Brandy-Joe Milliron, PhD; Kathleen Woolf, PhD, RD; and Bradley M. Appelhans, PhD. It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 44, Issue 3 (May/June 2012) published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628 or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Dr. Brandy-Joe Milliron by email at bmilliro@wfubmc.edu or by phone at +1 602 410 5574.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB) www.jneb.org, the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence, and ClinicalKey — and publishes nearly 2,200 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and over 25,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works.

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Media contact
Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
+1 732 238 3628
jnebmedia@elsevier.com