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Got calcium? UWM researcher finds that food labels confuse consumers
Date:10/5/2007

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And the answer

The answer is found in Study 3, which involved 41 women who were pregnant or breast-feeding. All had been told by their doctors or had read independently that they needed 1,200-1,500 milligrams of calcium a day.

Half of the women were given a one-page calcium fact sheet including the formula for converting %DV to milligrams. The formula is simple %DV is based on the average recommended calcium intake of 1,000 milligrams daily. To convert %DV to milligrams, just add 0 to the percentage on the label. For example, a carton of milk delivering 30% DV contains 300 milligrams of calcium.

The women who were given the fact sheet consumed significantly more average daily calcium (a mean of 1,429.78 milligrams) than women who were not given the fact sheet (a mean of 988.24 milligrams).

Current labeling leads to under-consumption of calcium, the research showed. The women who were not given the fact sheet may have consumed close to 100%DV of calcium daily, but it fell short of the 120-150% DV they really needed.

This is particularly worrisome with at-risk populations such as those over 55 years of age, or pregnant or lactating women, says Peracchio.

Teenage girls also need extra calcium, she points out, and a study reported this summer in The New York Times suggests that consuming high levels of vitamin D and calcium may offer some protection against the most aggressive kinds of breast cancer.

Other nutrients affected

Peracchio and Block point out that the difficulty in translating the Nutrition Facts panel on food products goes beyond calcium.

The challenge of using the Nutrition Facts panel to make adequate food consumption decisions is similar for other nutrients that consumers often do not consume enough of, such as dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron.

The Nutrition Facts panel is separated into two categories: the top of the panel lists nutrien
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Contact: Laura Peracchio
lperacch@uwm.edu
414-229-3830
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Source:Eurekalert

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