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Labeling Food As “Low Fat” Is A Powerful Inducement For Consumers

September 1, 2013: 12:00 AM EST
In a study involving 175 female college students, researchers at the University of Hawaii found that the label “low fat” on candy (M&M's) conveyed an impression that the food was not only healthier but better tasting than regular M&M's. (All of the M&M's in the study were regular versions.) They also found that participants significantly underestimated the caloric content of candy labeled as low fat. Those who did not know the calorie content underestimated the calories of supposedly low fat M&M's by an average of 71 calories, and  overestimated the caloric value of regular M&M's by an average of 38 calories. “The study findings may be related to the ‘health halo’ associated with low fat foods,” the researchers concluded.
Daria S. Ebnetera et al., "Is less always more? The effects of low-fat labeling and caloric information on food intake, calorie estimates, taste preference, and health attributions ", Appetite (Volume 68, 1 September 2013, Pages 92–97), September 01, 2013, © Elsevier B. V.
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