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Dieters Duped by Misleading Food Labels

Anytime I see a fatty food that is labeled “sugar free” or a sugary food that says “fat free” it always makes me chuckle. It’s almost always easily transparent, but that may just be that I’m a little more sensitive to it since I write about diet and fitness.

Unfortunately, most people don’t take the time to really think about the healthfulness of the food they purchase. According to a new study, dieters tend to make quick decisions about how healthy a food is based just on how it is labeled, not on its ingredients.

“Over time, dieters learn to focus on simply avoiding foods that they recognize as forbidden based on product name,” said the authors in a statement. “Thus, dieters are likely to assume that an item assigned an unhealthy name (for example, pasta) is less healthy than an item assigned a healthy name (for example, salad), and they do not spend time considering other product information that might impact their product evaluations.”

To expound on this idea, the average shopper may pass on whole wheat pasta, a perfectly healthy food, but buy a prepackaged salad with ham, croutons and a fatty dressing.

It’s not to say consumers are completely to blame in this mess. Food companies use devious marketing schemes to dupe people into believing their products are healthy. As the researchers pointed out, examples would include veggie chips or smoothies that are basically the sugary equivalent of a milk shake.

In one experiment, dieters and non-dieters were both asked to rate the healthfulness and taste of sour Jelly Belly jelly beans when they were presented as either “fruit chews” or “candy chews.” Dieters tended to rate the “fruit chews” as healthier and also tended to eat more of them.

(via: Business Daily)

May 6th, 2011

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