Healthy Food Labels May Be 'Contributing To The Obesity Epidemic', Study Warns

Healthy Food Labels May Be 'Contributing To The Obesity Epidemic'

If you're trying to lose weight, reaching for lots of healthy food may seem like an obvious choice.

But new research suggests that when we eat food we consider to be healthy, we tend to consume more than the recommended serving size.

As a result, we put on weight instead of losing it.

The researchers have argued that traffic light food labels may therefore be contributing to the overconsumption of "healthy food" and indadvertedly fuelling to the obesity crisis.

The researchers, from Cornell University and the University of Groningen, conducted a series of experiments to investigate the link between our perception of healthy food and our eating habits.

The first study was conducted with 50 undergraduate university students. The students were asked basic questions about their associations of how healthy a type of food was and how full they believed they would be after eating it.

The researchers found that food perceived to be healthy was also perceived to be less filling than other food by the participants.

The second study was a field study conducted with 40 graduate students. The researchers measured participants' hunger levels after consuming a cookie that was either portrayed as healthy or unhealthy to test the effect of health portrayals on experienced hunger levels.

The third study was conducted with 72 undergraduate students in a realistic scenario. The researchers monitored the impact of health portrayals on the amount of food the students ordered before watching a short film and the actual amount of food consumed during the film.

All three studies indicated that when we think food is healthy, we also associate it with being light and therefore consume more of it than we need to.

According to two of the study authors, Brian Wansink of Cornell University and Koert van Ittersum of the University of Groningen, the findings suggest that the "recent proliferation of healthy food labels may be ironically contributing to the obesity epidemic rather than reducing it".

The study is published in the inaugural issue of the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research titled 'The Behavioural Science of Eating'.


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