A systematic review, and meta-analyses, of the impact of health-related claims on dietary choices
Kaur A., Scarborough P., Rayner M.
© 2017 The Author(s). Background: Health-related claims are statements regarding the nutritional content of a food (nutrition claims) and/or indicate that a relationship exists between a food and a health outcome (health claims). Their impact on food purchasing or consumption decisions is unclear. This systematic review measured the effect of health-related claims, on pre-packaged foods in retail settings, on adult purchasing decisions (real and perceived). Methods: In September 2016, we searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, CAB abstracts, Business Source Complete, and Web of Science/Science Citation Index & Social Science Citation Index for articles in English published in peer-review journals. Studies were included if they were controlled experiments where the experimental group(s) included a health-related claim and the control group involved an identical product without a health-related claim. Included studies measured (at an individual or population level); actual or intended choice, purchases, and/or consumption. The primary outcome was product choices and purchases, the secondary outcome was food consumption and preference. Results were standardised through calculating odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the likelihood of choosing a product when a health-related claim was present. Results were combined in a random-effects meta-analysis. Results: Thirty-one papers were identified, 17 of which were included for meta-analyses. Most studies were conducted in Europe (n = 17) and the USA (n = 7). Identified studies were choice experiments that measured the likelihood of a product being chosen when a claim was present compared to when a claim was not present, (n = 16), 15 studies were experiments that measured either; intent-rating scale outcomes (n = 8), consumption (n = 6), a combination of the two (n = 1), or purchase data (n = 1). Overall, 20 studies found that claims increase purchasing and/or consumption, eight studies had mixed results, and two studies found consumption/purchasing reductions. The meta-analyses of 17 studies found that health-related claims increase consumption and/or purchasing (OR 1.75, CI 1.60-1.91). Conclusion: Health-related claims have a substantial effect on dietary choices. However, this finding is based on research mostly conducted in artificial settings. Findings from natural experiments have yielded smaller effects. Further research is needed to assess effects of claims in real-world settings. Trial registration: PROSPERO systematic review registration number: CRD42016044042.