Can healthy foods cause overeating?

Can healthy foods cause overeating?

It is a new year, which means a lot of people making resolutions to lose weight and eat healthier. While this is a great goal, eating “healthy” doesn’t necessarily always mean losing weight. Can healthy foods cause overeating?

University of Texas researchers set out to find if foods that are portrayed or marketed as “healthy” can cause overeating and actually contribute to weight gain.

According to study coauthor Jacob Suher his team, their results show that the “healthy equals less filling” theory is true, meaning that we consume a higher quantity of healthy foods, because we consider them to be less filling.

The researchers conducted three different studies. The following methods were outlined in the study press release:

“The first study was conducted with 50 undergraduate students at a large public university and employed the well-established Implicit Association Test to provide evidence for an inverse relationship between the concepts of healthy and filling. The second study was a field study conducted with 40 graduate students at a large public university and measured participants’ hunger levels after consuming a cookie that is either portrayed as healthy or unhealthy to test the effect of health portrayals on experienced hunger levels. The third study was conducted with 72 undergraduate students in a realistic scenario to measure the impact of health portrayals on the amount of food ordered before watching a short film and the actual amount of food consumed during the film. The set of three studies converges on the idea that consumers hold an implicit belief that healthy foods are less filling than unhealthy foods.”

The researchers found that portraying a food as healthy with marketing techniques affect consumer judgment. When a food is perceived as healthy, consumers reported lower hunger levels after eating, ordered greater amounts of food, and ate more.

The study was published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.

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1. “How Healthy Foods Could Lead to Overeating.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2016.
2. “Eating Healthy or Feeling Empty?EurekAlert! Cornell Food & Brand Lab, n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2016.
3. “Eating Healthy or Feeling Empty?Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. Cornell University, n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2016.

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