Kiwis would gain an extra 0.7kg each year were it not for the Heart Foundation's tick, researchers say.
A University of Otago study has found the 22-year-old health initiative, designed to promote cardiovascular health, has improved the nation's diet.
"The tick programme is making small - but significant, when it's over a whole population - reductions in saturated fats, sodium and dietary energy," associate professor and study co-author Nick Wilson said.
The study shows, on average, that Kiwis eat 72 fewer kilojoules a day as result of the scheme. While small, this added up to roughly 0.7kg in weight gain over a year.
It also removed 1g of saturated fat and 38mg of salt from New Zealanders' diets every day. The average healthy diet has a daily maximum of 24g of saturated fat and 2300mg of salt.
"Those things will be helping reduce heart attacks and strokes in the New Zealand population. They're a good thing - these things add up over 4 million people and over a year."
Since the 1960s, heart disease has been decreasing in New Zealand and other developed countries. While fewer people smoking was one factor, researchers also believed schemes like tick had played a vital role.
Wilson said the study results highlighted the importance of food labelling.
"Not only should we be thinking about how we can make the tick programme more effective - a bigger tick might be better - but about what is the best design for food labels and 'traffic light'-type systems."
Earlier this year, the Government announced a voluntary five-star nutritional rating system. Some health experts have panned the plan, claiming it does not go far enough.
- The Dominion Post
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