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Study: 'Low content' nutrition labels are misleading

c-photo/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers say that claims on food labels such as "low-sugar" and "low-fat" may not be significant sources of meaning.

According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the labels on food and drinks that make such striking health claims often offer no valuable information on the nutritional quality of their contents. After looking at 80 million purchases from 40,000 households, researchers say that 13 percent of food and 35 percent of beverages make a nutritional claim on their label.

The most common claim found was "low-fat," most common in "low-fat" dairy products.

The study found that, when compared with purchases that did not make any nutritional claim, those that did often claimed lower mean energy, lower sugar totals, lower fat and lower sodium.

The catch? Purchases featuring a given claim didn't necessarily offer better overall nutritional product, or even better nutritional profiles of the claimed nutrient, relative to products that made no claim.

The study also found that middle- and high-income households were more likely to purchase both foods and beverages that made a nutritional claim when compared with lower-income households.

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