A new online database has been launched with the aim of helping consumers understand the nutritional content of their food products better and as such curb excessive fat or calorie intake.
Atlanta, Georgia-based Nutrition Systems announced the launch of NutritionPedia.com, a free online searchable database for the public to access nutrition fact labels for over 50,000 branded food products.
Giving consumers the tools to make the right nutritional decisions has been at the core of both regulatory initiatives as well as health and wellness trends within the food industry itself.
An estimated 66 percent of adults in the US are either overweight or obese, based on results from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The rate of obesity more than doubled from the previous NHANES survey - increasing from 15.0 percent (1976-1980) to 32.9 percent (2003-2004).
While nutrition fact labels were designed to help consumers make wiser decisions at the supermarket, surveys have shown that the public is still quite confused by them.
A study published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine pointed to the fact consumers may have difficulty deciphering these labels. Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center questioned 200 patients from a wide socioeconomic range.
Among their findings were that only 37 percent of patients could calculate the number of carbohydrates consumed from a 20-ounce bottle of soda that contained 2.5 servings, while only 60 percent could calculate carbohydrates consumed if they ate half a bagel. Nonetheless, the participants indicated overwhelmingly that they found nutrition labels easy to read.
Nutrition Systems hopes to change this with its new free service.
"NutritionPedia's goal is to provide easy access to nutrition information for all foods consumed in the United States," said Marvin Johnson, president of Nutrition Systems. "The launch of NutritionPedia is our first step in assisting users with achieving their health and wellness goals, and we're adding new items daily."
The site has an online editing tool that allows users to add new items to the database. The entry is then verified for accuracy by Nutrition Systems before it is added to the database for use by all consumers.
Nutritionpedia.com is designed to encourage consumer to compare nutritional information for various products. If such a system gains hold with consumers, it could motivate manufacturers to make further efforts to minimize the unhealthy content of foods. The website also contains dieting and health information for consumers.
"Research has shown that one of the most effective methods to enhance both weight loss and weight maintenance is by keeping a daily food record," said Michele Doucette, from the Division of Nutrition at Georgia State University. "NutritionPedia is an innovative and expanding nutrition information resource that will help users keep track of their daily food intake."