Published: April 2022

ID #: 76337

Journal: Am J Clin Nutr

Authors: Hall MG, Lazard AJ, Higgins ICA, Blitstein JL, Duffy EW, Greenthal E, Sorscher S, Taillie LS.

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Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, including fruit drinks, contributes to childhood obesity. We aimed to examine whether nutrition-related claims on fruit drinks influence purchasing among parents and lead to misperceptions of healthfulness. We conducted an experiment in a virtual convenience store with 2219 parents of children ages 1-5 y. Parents were randomly assigned to view fruit drinks displaying 1 of 3 claims (“No artificial sweeteners,” “100% Vitamin C,” and “100% All Natural”) or no claim (i.e., control group). Parents selected among each of 2 drinks for their young child: 1) a fruit drink or 100% juice (primary outcome), and 2) a fruit drink or water. When choosing between a fruit drink and 100% juice, 45% of parents who viewed the fruit drink with the “No artificial sweeteners” claim, 51% who viewed the “100% Vitamin C” claim, and 54% who viewed the “100% All Natural” claim selected the fruit drink, compared with 32% in the no-claim control group. “No artificial sweeteners” and “100% All Natural” claims increased the likelihood of parents choosing the fruit drink instead of water but “100% Vitamin C” did not. All claims made parents more likely to incorrectly believe that the fruit drinks contained no added sugar and were 100% juice than the control, as assessed in a posttest survey. The impact of claims on selection of the fruit drink (compared with 100% juice) did not vary by any of the moderators examined (e.g., race/ethnicity, income). Overall, nutrition-related claims led parents to choose less healthy beverages for their children and misled them about the healthfulness of fruit drinks.

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