Looking at this image, would you eat more of the low fat coleslaw because it says LOW FAT?
This is what a study by researchers at the University of Ulster published earlier this month in the International Journal of Obesity aim to find out. Would people eat larger portions of the ‘healthier’ food when given a choice even if both choices contain the same amount of calories.
“Foods are marketed as being healthier for a reason, because food producers believe, and they correctly believe, that those labels will influence us to eat their products and perhaps eat more of their products,” said Dr. Cliodhna Foley Nolan the director of Human Health and Nutrition at Safefood, a government agency in Ireland.
In the study, 186 participants were asked to serve themselves coleslaw, with one labelled ‘healthier’ and the other ‘standard’. However in reality both choices had almost the same amount of calories. (224 calories per 100g for the one labelled ‘healthier’ and 223 calories for the ‘standard’.)
The result of the study was that the participants served themselves more of the ‘healthier’ coleslaw compared with the ‘standard’ as they had underestimated the amount of calories.
The conclusion of the study was that nutrition claims could be promoting inappropriate portion size selection and consumption behavior.
The bottom line is that it is always good to read the nutrition labels. Having tons of health claims pasted on the packaging does not mean we can eat more to feel less guilty since we assume its healthier.
Source: International Journal of Obesity (7 May 2013) | doi:10.1038/ijo.2013.69 – Perceived ‘healthiness’ of foods can influence consumers’ estimations of energy density and appropriate portion size