Researchers from the George Institute for International Health found that web shoppers -- whose average age was 40 years old -- reduced the fat content of their shopping baskets by 10 percent. Though the study only prompted shoppers to reduce the dietary fat content of their purchases, the researchers believe that shoppers could similarly reduce the salt and sugar content of their purchases if prompted.
"[The pop-up] could provide advice about salt intake or advice to consumers with specific disease states such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol," says researcher Dr. Bruce Neal.
Neal's team examined a list of commonly purchased foods that contained up to 92 percent saturated fat and identified suitable lower-fat alternatives for each. As shoppers selected fatty foods online, a pop-up offered the opportunity to either stick with their original selection or swap for the recommended healthier choice. Older, overweight shoppers were more willing to take the healthy substitutes, the researchers found.
Neville Rigby, of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, says that because most shoppers are still buying foods from supermarkets, clearer labeling displaying the basic health content of foods could help shoppers make healthier choices. Rigby also suggests that grocery stores give out printouts showing the sugar and fat content of the groceries a consumer buys.
Maria Gillespie of the British Heart Foundation says her agency is calling for food makers and retailers to agree on more consistent front-of-pack labeling. "We want to see traffic light colors added to provide at-a-glance information on the nutritional content of food," Gillespie says. "The same information needs to be easily seen when shoppers are choosing products online, so they can see if there is a healthier alternative."
Nutritionist Mike Adams, author of "The Seven Laws of Nutrition," says the Australian research shows how online consumers are increasingly aware of the nutritional consequences of their food purchases. "This study also shows that simple educational efforts at the point of purchase may help consumers make healthier choices," Adams says.