How healthy foods could lead to overeat­ing

Pakistan Observer - - KARACHI CITY -

Is your New Year’s res­o­lu­tion to eat more healthily? If so, watch out: foods por trayed as healthy may lead to overeat­ing and con­trib­ute to weight gain, ac­cord­ing to new re­search.

Re­searchers say foods por­trayed as healthy are of­ten viewed as be­ing less fill­ing, caus­ing us to eat more. In the Journal of the As­so­ci­a­tion for Con­sumer Re­search, in­ves­ti­ga­tors found that if we per­ceive a cer­tain food to be healthy, we are likely to con­sume more of it.

Ac­cord­ing to study coau­thor Jacob Suher and col­leagues, from the Univer­sity of Texas-Austin, their find­ings sup­port the “healthy equals less fill­ing” the­ory - the idea that we con­sume healthy foods in larger amounts be­cause we con­sider them less fill­ing than un­healthy foods.

The re­searchers con­ducted three ex­per­i­ments on three groups of par­tic­i­pants to reach their find­ings. Firstly, the team en­rolled 50 un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents to com­plete the Im­plicit As­so­ci­a­tion Test, which was used to as­sess whether they be­lieved healthy foods to be less fill­ing than un­healthy foods.

Next, the re­searchers asked 40 grad­u­ate stu­dents to con­sume a cookie; one cookie was pre­sented to them in pack­ag­ing with nu­tri­tional in­for­ma­tion that rep­re­sented it as un­healthy, while the other cookie was por­trayed as healthy. After con­sum­ing the cookie, par­tic­i­pants were asked to re­port their hunger lev­els.

In a third “real world” ex­per­i­ment in­volv­ing 72 un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents, the team as­sessed how health por­tray­als of food af­fected the amount of food par­tic­i­pants or­dered prior to watch­ing a short film, and how such por­tray­als im­pacted the amount of food con­sumed dur­ing the film. Healthy food la­bels may be con­tribut­ing to obe­sity epi­demic In the cookie ex­per­i­ment, re­searchers found that par­tic­i­pants who con­sumed the “healthy” cookie re­ported greater hunger after eat­ing than those who con­sumed the cookie por­trayed as un­healthy.

What is more, in the real world ex­per­i­ment, the team found that par­tic­i­pants or­dered larger por­tion sizes be­fore watch­ing the film and ate more food dur­ing the film when food was por­trayed as healthy, com­pared with when food was por­trayed as un­healthy.

In­ter­est­ingly, even in­di­vid­u­als who did not be­lieve in the the­ory that un­healthy foods are less fill­ing - as de­ter­mined by the Im­plicit As­so­ci­a­tion Test - re­ported greater hunger after con­sum­ing the “healthy” cookie and or­dered and con­sumed more food when it was por­trayed as healthy.

The team says their find­ings sug­gest an irony when it comes to healthy eat­ing; rather than help­ing to com­bat obe­sity, healthy food la­bels may be con­tribut­ing to the obe­sity epi­demic by caus­ing us to overeat. The re­searchers rec­om­mend that con­sumers opt for foods that are por­trayed as nour­ish­ing rather than healthy in or­der to feel full without overeat­ing.

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