Promuovere scelte alimentari corrette attraverso le etichette nutrizionali (To promote correct food choices through nutrition labels)

  • Cristina Zerbini
  • Beatrice Luceri
  • Sabrina Latusi
Keywords: nutritional label, fMRI, overweight, traffic light label, star rating label, silhouette label


Purpose of the paper: The present study aims to investigate the effectiveness of different nutritional labels and, in particular, to compare the effectiveness of textual format label with respect to symbolic format labels (traffic light, star rating, silhouette), with reference to overweight and normal weight subjects.

Methodology: An fMRI experiment has allowed the hypothesis testing. A 2x4x2 experimental design was used with 2 levels of product version (regular vs light), 4
levels of label type (text vs traffic light vs star rating vs silhouette) and 2 levels of group of people (normal weight vs overweight). The dependent variable was the percentage of signal change in arbitrary units.

Findings: The silhouette label associated with the product in the light version generates more brain activation compared to the same label associated with the
products in the regular version, and compared to all the other types of labels for both product versions, only in the overweight subject group. Furthermore, for such individuals the simple textual label in the light version generates an activation of the insula (associated with emotion) lower than other labels regardless of the product version.

Research limits: The study sample belongs to a younger age group (average 25 years) and the experimental design did not consider other variables that may influence the choice (price, brand, etc.).

Practical implications: The results may support the promotion of healthier eating choices for overweight subjects. Such results are, therefore, of interest to policy
maker’s strategies and to out-of-store and in-store communication strategies for light or healthy products.

Originality of the paper: The effectiveness of silhouette labels has not been investigated in the literature.


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