Who cares about health claims?
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
Simon Steenson, British Nutrition Foundation
Health claims appear on a range of different foods and drinks you can find in the supermarket, but who uses these when they are shopping?
Research shows that people with health conditions, such as high cholesterol or diabetes, are more likely to look at health claims on products. Did you know that over half of European adults over the age of 25 have high cholesterol, while 1 in 10 are living with diabetes? That's a lot of people who might be looking for help in making healthier food choices.
Health claims related to health conditions include:
Lowers/reduces blood cholesterol levels. You might find this type of claim on foods that contain beta-glucans, which are a type of dietary fibre found in oats and barley, or products that contain the cholesterol lowering compounds plant sterols or stanols, such as fat spreads or yogurt drinks. For example, products that contain at least 1 gram of oat beta-glucans per portion can use the claim Oat beta-glucan has been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease.
Contributes to the maintenance of normal blood pressure. Many of us consume too much sodium (mainly as salt) in our diet, and people with high blood pressure may be advised to cut down on their sodium intake. Foods or drinks that contain a low or reduced amount of sodium or salt (0.12 g of sodium or 0.3 g salt per 100 g or per 100 ml) can use the claim Reducing consumption of sodium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood pressure.
Contributes to the reduction of blood glucose rise after a meal. Foods with this type of claim might interest those who need to monitor their blood glucose levels, such as people with diabetes. One example is foods that contain arabinoxylan, a type of dietary fibre found in wheat, which can use the claim Consumption of arabinoxylan contributes to a reduction of the blood glucose rise after a meal.
It makes sense that these claims would be of interest to people with a health condition, but it is important that the wording is easy enough for consumers to understand and trust. That is the goal of the Health Claims Unpacked project, and you can help us achieve this by visiting our toolkit at www.unpackinghealthclaims.eu and having a go at the fun activities!
Do you find health claims confusing? Do you wish it was easier to decipher what they mean? Get in touch and let us know your thoughts by clicking on the Contact Us link above.