NEW YORK — Fifty-nine per cent of consumers have difficulty understanding nutrition labels on food packaging and more than half consider themselves to be overweight, according to a survey from Nielsen.

“Consumers around the world have healthy eating on their minds, and consumer packaged goods marketers have an opportunity to help,” said James Russo, vice-president of global consumer insights for Nielsen. “Consumer-friendly nutritional labeling can be a powerful marketing tool as consumers are hungry for easy-to-understand information.”

A Nielsen survey of 25,000 respondents in 56 countries showed that about half of consumers are trying to loss weight and of those, 78% are trying to lose weight through dieting.

At the same time, 59% of consumers have difficulty understanding nutrition facts on food packaging with 52% understanding labels “in part.” In addition, 41% “mostly” understand nutrition labels, and 7% said they do not understand nutrition labels at all.

North American consumers had the most confidence in understanding labels with 57% saying they mostly understand the information. Specifically, 58% of U.S. respondents said they mostly understand the information.

Nielsen also found skepticism about the believability of health claims such as “low fat” and “all natural.”

More than two-thirds of global respondents said they believe nutritional claims are either never or only sometimes trustworthy. Calorie count claims are the most trusted claim with 33% saying these claims are always accurate and 58% saying they are sometimes accurate. Only 15% of respondents said more ambiguous claims such as “freshness” and “heart-healthy” are always accurate with 80% saying they are never or only sometimes believable claims.

The survey also found broad support for calorie counts on restaurant menus with 49% of global respondents saying fast-food restaurants should always have this information on the menus. Forty-one per cent said full-service chain restaurants should always post calorie counts.