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    'Guiding Stars' Makes the Grade

    Independent testing suggests program can help curb national obesity crisis

    The "Guiding Stars" nutrition guidance program, already used by multiple grocers across the country, has the potential to contribute significantly to curbing the national nutritional health crisis, a new study suggests.

    According to new independent data published recently in the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) Review, the nationwide implementation of the Guiding Stars Program on ready-to-eat breakfast cereals alone could prompt consumers to reduce the amount of added sugars and increase the amount of whole grains in their diets by 2.5 percent, while also reducing calories and sodium intake.

    "This is exactly the kind of positive outcome we had hoped would result from independent testing of the efficacy of the Guiding Stars program on a national scale," said Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg, professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University and a member of the scientific advisory panel of the Guiding Stars Licensing Co., which is based in Portland, Maine.

    "While the results may seem small in the face of the challenge before us, the fact is we didn't get ourselves into this national health crisis overnight, and there is no miracle cure," added Blumberg. "It's going to take education and the right tools, along with a number of changes in mindset and lifestyle, over time to put us back on the right path."

    The IFAMA study is the first of its kind to extrapolate the results of previous localized research on a national scale. Researchers from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Florida investigated potential changes in ready-to-eat cereal consumption predicted by estimated demand based on implementation of Guiding Stars or a 10 percent price intervention. The study determined that implementing a hypothetical nationwide Guiding Stars program could lead to "statistically significant improvements in diet quality," and that "lower-income consumers and children would benefit most from changes in ready-to-eat cereal choices."

    The results also confirm that the Guiding Stars rating system, as validated in a similar study published last year in Food Policy based on research conducted at Hannaford and in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010, aids in decision-making for consumers who don't read or have a hard time understanding the government-mandated Nutrition Facts label.

    The full report, "Simulating the Potential Effects of a Shelf-Tag Nutrition Information Program on Diet Quality Associated with Ready-to-Eat Cereals," is published in Volume 17 Special Issue A, 2014 of the IFAMA Review.

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