Originally published April 28 2011
Dieters easily misled by food labels
by Kaye Stringer
(NaturalNews) A recent study examining the names and descriptions of foods reinforces the growing body of evidence that health claims can cause confusion among consumers. The study found that dieters tend to focus on certain words or product names more than a food's actual ingredients. For example, dieters are more likely to choose a product that is described as "salad" rather than one described as "pasta," even if the ingredients are exactly the same.
Researchers at the University of South Carolina presented participants with a "daily special" containing pasta shells, salami, and mozzarella cheese served on a bed of romaine lettuce. Individuals who described themselves as being health conscious or dieting were more likely to assign the meal a healthy score when it was described as a "salad." Non-dieters were not as easily swayed by the name of the product.
In another part of the study, college students were given a snack to eat while watching a nine-minute movie. Some of the students were told the product was "fruit chews," while others were told they were "candy chews." Not surprisingly, the dieters ate more of the product when it was described as "fruit chews."
Misleading claims on food products are nothing new. Food manufacturers often trick consumers with deceptive ingredients lists (http://www.naturalnews.com/021929.html). Calorie-laden milkshakes are sold as "fruit smoothies," and sugary flavored water is marketed as "sports drinks." In 2008, Natural News reported on a study that showed sugary children's foods often mislead consumers by making nutritional claims (http://www.naturalnews.com/025000_food_healt...). Food manufacturers have been attracting health-minded consumers for years by using the words "all natural" on products that actually contain dangerous additives such as MSG (http://www.naturalnews.com/005778.html).
Findings from the recent study, published in the April 11 issue of The Journal of Consumer Research, indicate that consumers who seek out healthy foods may actually end up making poorer food choices than individuals who are less concerned with a food's nutritional quality. They also underscore how little the average American understands about nutrition.
Earlier this year, a Consumer Reports poll revealed that nine out of 10 Americans described their diet as "somewhat healthy," even though two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. More than forty percent of the people questioned admitted to drinking at least one soda or other sweetened beverage per day, and only one in four said they limited their consumption of sugar and fat.
Furthermore, forty percent of Americans said they eat "pretty much everything" they want, and a third described their weight as healthy even though their BMI actually qualified them as overweight or obese. Only three out of ten people surveyed said they consume five or more servings of vegetables a day. Those who did eat vegetables tended to favor those lowest in nutrients, such as lettuce, or starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn.
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