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Foods marketed as healthy are actually making
America fat. If you don’t want to know more, I suggest you run away now, for about 30 minutes
a day with an elevated heart rate. Actually, you should just do that anyway. Hey gang, Matt Lieberman here for DNews. Obesity
is, dare I say, a huge issue in the United States. Nearly two thirds of US women and
three quarters of US men are overweight or obese, and a new report published in the journal
JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that Obese Americans actually outnumber overweight Americans.
It’s big news, but a new study published in the Journal of Marketing Research is weighing
even more heavily on my mind. The study, authored by the American Marketing Association, shows
that foods marketed as fitness, diet, or healthy options can lead to overconsumption and actually
reduce consumers’ motivation to exercise. The study examined the eating and exercise
patterns of so-called “restrained” eaters, who are chronically concerned about their
body weight and image. Participants were allowed to choose between two bags of trail mix, one
labelled simply Trail Mix, while the other was labelled Fitness Trail Mix, with an image
of running shoes visible on the package. They were given eight minutes to eat and give their
opinions on the trail mix of their choice, and then encouraged to exercise as much as
they wanted on a stationary bike. Overwhelmingly, participants who chose the Fitness trail mix
consumed more of it and also opted to work out far less vigorously than those who chose
the “normal” trail mix. Through simple marketing, people internalized the message
that this trail mix was a light, fit snack, and that exercise was therefore less necessary
or not necessary at all. However, diet foods are in many ways just
as unhealthy or more unhealthy than foods considered unhealthy. You see, when food producers
try to make a food seem leaner by cutting fat, they often add sugar and sodium to make
it taste as great as the real thing. Take breakfast cereals for example. Cereals like
General Mills’ Total Raisin Bran, Kellogg’s Smart Start, or Kellogg’s Low-Fat Granola
all contain more grams of sugar per serving than a powdered sugar donut at Dunkin Donuts.
All of their boxes encourage a health-conscious lifestyle. But if a consumer decides to eat
more in one sitting AND exercise less often, their sugar intake could skyrocket. What’s
worse, it’s not just an American problem. In the UK, the University of Hertfordshire
discovered that foods from 7 major supermarkets marketed as healthy options for children in
fact contained more sugar, fat, and salt than the same healthy foods marketed towards adults.
Either way, we’ve got a mega-sized marketing mix-up here. In closing, don’t be fooled by a pair of
running shoes, a happy sun, or pictures of happy, rugged hikers. Always read nutrition
facts and the ingredient list of foods before you buy, and hey, it’s better to eat less
of the real thing than to eat more of a processed clone. And hey, if you want to see more of me, why
don’t you check out this fun video on Sourcefed, where I talk about the Pizza Hut Hot Dog Stuffed
Crust Pizza?

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