Have you ever glanced at the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods and been confused about what you should be looking for? Do you find it difficult to figure out how much sugar is natural or added in the product you purchased? Does the percent Daily Value total trip you up? Do you know the difference between polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat? (Okay, if you are an avid reader of my blog, you probably do, but you are way ahead of most people.) The fact is the Nutrition Facts label required on all packaged foods is confusing. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

A recent study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences journal compared four labeling systems and found that the Nutrition Facts label was the least useable of the four. The label took more time to understand and led to nutrition choices that were no different than those chosen randomly. Of all four labels, the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System was the most useable. NuVal scores food on a scale of 1 to 100. The higher the score, the better the nutrition. Simple as that.

“Food shoppers typically have a limited amount of time to make each food choice, and they find the Nutrition Facts labels to be confusing and difficult to use,” noted Peter Helfer, lead researcher. “One product might be low in fat, bur high in sugar, while another product may be just the opposite. Nutrition Facts labels can highlight nutrition conflicts, but fail to resolve them. Even educated and motivated shoppers have difficulty picking out the most nutritious product with these labels.”

I am hopeful that this study will help influence the Food and Drug Administration, who are currently working on updating the current label. They have already proposed some changes, including adding an “added sugar” category, but even with the proposed changes, the label is still confusing to many.