AU Health Experts Call for Graphic Health Warnings on Junk Food

Just about every healthy diet I know of calls for minimizing, if not outrightly banning, junk food, and that’s hardly surprising, really. All those processed chips, cookies, and biscuits are generally high in sodium, carbohydrates, and sugar, but have little to no nutritional content.


The harmful effects of too much junk food on the body are also quite vast and well-documented. We all know that their consumption is linked to the obesity epidemic, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, and there are even recent studies attempting to establish its correlation to diminished mental capacity and health.


Yet, we can’t stop eating them.

sugarly treats

Image Credit: Freepik


Had a rough day at work? That might set off a craving for a bag of salty pretzels just to take the edge off. Monthly period just a few days away? Don’t be surprised if you feel like reaching for that box of donuts. Heck, I personally get a hankering for instant noodles when I’m PMS-ing, but I digress.


Let’s face it: junk food is like those boys and/or girls your mother warned you about back in high school. You know they’re bad for you, but you just can’t resist them anyway.


Until now, if a group of Australian health experts are to be believed.


According to a study from the University of Melbourne and Cancer Council Victoria published earlier this year, putting graphic health warnings, much like those you can see on cigarette packets, on unhealthy food was an effective tool for improving a person’s diet. (In other words, seeing the image of an unhealthy heart coated in congealed yellow fat could put you off that bag of Jalapeño Cheetos.)

graphic health warning

Image Credit: Getty Images


The experiment involved 95 hungry participants whose brain activity was measured by electrodes attached to their heads. They were then shown full-color photos of fifty different kinds of snacks, ranging from unhealthy ones like chocolate bars, chips, and cookies to healthier alternatives like fresh fruits and vegetables. Each participant was then directed to use a scale to indicate how much they wanted to eat the food in each image.


During the first round, the participants generally ranked the photos of junk food higher, but that changed when they were shown a number of health warnings before being asked to rate the next set of fifty snacks.


Dr. Helen Dixon, Cancer Council Victoria’s behavioral researcher, attributed this to how ghastly graphic images of sickly organs disrupt the strong cues for taste that images of junk food often elicit, thus jarring a person into seriously considering the health implications of their food choices.


“This research demonstrates that powerful, relevant information on food packaging can influence people and and push them away from junk food,” Obesity Policy Coalition Executive Director Jane Martin added once the results were published, “Poor diets and being above a healthy weight are risk factors for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. To address this, Australia needs a comprehensive strategy, which should consider improved labeling.”

heart disease

Image Credit: iStock


In line with Executive Director Martin’s statement, public health advocates have been urging the Australian government to make graphic health warnings mandatory for the packaging of all unhealthy snacks under the revised Health Star Rating System.


Would graphic health warnings put you off buying and/or eating junk food? Let us know in the comments below!

Serena Estrella

Serena joined Remit back in 2016, and has tormented its Marketing Head constantly ever since. To get through the rigors of writing about grave concerns like exchange rates, citizenship requirements, and PH-AU news, she likes to blast Mozart, Vivaldi, ONE OK ROCK, and Shigeru Umebayashi in the background. She does a mean Merida voice in her spare time too.


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