New study shows dieters more prone to blind faith in healthy product names

A new study conducted by the University of South Carolina found that people on a diet are more likely to be deceived by food names and label claims.

The study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, states that certain foods led weight or health conscious eaters into ‘naming traps’ more so than non-dieters.

Study participants given a choice between candies labeled “fruit chew” versus “candy chew” actually ate more of the candy overall when it had the healthier sounding name, regardless of the ingredient content.

Researcher and assistant professor of marketing at the Darla Moore School of Business, Dr. Caglar Irmak, said the perceptions of healthfulness related to certain foods that have healthier sounding names is not really a surprise, but, “What is interesting is that dieters, who try to eat healthy and care about what they eat, fell into these ‘naming traps’ more than non-dieters who really don’t care about healthy eating.”

Those participants concerned with diet and weight loss, avoided certain foods just based on the name and gave considerably less of their time to exploring detailed product information to assess whether or not the foods were in fact unhealthy. “These results should give dieters pause. The study shows that dieters base their food decisions on the name of the food item instead of the ingredients of the item,” Irmak said. “As a result, they may eat more than what their dieting goals prescribe.”

According to the study results, some of the biggest contributors with misleading healthy-sounding names included: Milkshakes often listed as “smoothies,” deep fried/trans-fat laden potato chips called “veggie chips” and sugary drinks labeled “flavored water.”

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