A new study has found that placing graphic health messages, similar to those found on cigarette packets, may be an effective way for customers to make healthier food choices.

"We don't know yet if there are some messages that work better for some people than for others, there's still a lot more work to do," said study co-author Stefan Bode of the University of Melbourne.

"But in theory I'm very happy that it works at all because it's something that is easy to implement."

Experts are yet to know whether the results of putting unsightly images on confectionery and snacks will affect everyday eating habits for consumers.

Ninety-six hungry people were shown pictures of snack foods and asked to rate each food on how much they would like to eat that following the experiment. They were then shown health warnings, with and without pictures, some with negative messages, and others with positive messages.

"Eating sugary foods increases your risk of tooth decay."

"Staying a healthy weight reduces your risk of heart disease."

Following this, the participants were asked to rate a similar set of snack foods with researchers finding that the negative messages were the most effective deterrent of unhealthy options.

According to Dr Bode, there is a link between viewing the warning labels and activating self-control, rather than acting on impulse.

"We can really see a signature of deploying this self-control to resist unhealthy choices. This is something we're really excited about to follow up and see how this happens."

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