Can "Low Fat" Nutrition Labels Lead to Obesity?



Paper 1: Can “Low Fat” Nutrition Labels Lead to Obesity?
In this era of increasing obesity and increasing threats of legislation and regulation of food marketing practices, regulatory agencies have pointedly asked how “low fat” nutrition claims may influence food consumption. The authors develop and test a framework that contends that “low fat” nutrition labels increase food intake by 1) increasing perceptions of the appropriate serving size, and 2) decreasing consumption guilt. Three studies show that “low fat” labels lead all consumers—particularly those who are overweight—to overeat snack foods. Furthermore, salient objective serving size information (e.g., “servings per container: 2”) only reduces overeating among guilt-prone normal weight consumers, not among overweight consumers. With consumer welfare and corporate profitability in mind, win-win packaging and labeling insights are suggested for public policy officials and food marketers.
The Biasing Health Halos of Fast Food Restaurant Health Claims: Lower Calorie Estimates and Higher Side-Dish Consumption Intentions
Why is America a land of low-calorie food claims yet high-calorie food intake?  Four studies show that people underestimate the caloric content of main dishes and choose higher-calorie side dishes, drinks, or desserts when fast-food restaurants claim to be healthy (e.g. Subway) compared to when they do not (e.g., McDonald’s). We also find that the effect of these health halos can be eliminated by simply asking people to consider whether the opposite of such health claims may be true. These studies help explain why the success of fast-food restaurants serving lower-calorie foods has not led to the expected reduction in total calorie intake and in obesity rates. They also suggest innovative strategies for consumers, marketers, and policy makers searching for ways to fight obesity.
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Dr. B. Donkers