Foods portrayed as healthy may lead to overeating and contribute to weight gain, according to new research.
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.
And they concluded that the huge amount was eaten.