Do low-fat foods make us fat?

Dec 08, 2006

Recent Cornell studies in movie theatres, holiday receptions, and homes showed people eat an average of 28% more total calories when they eat low-fat snacks than regular ones. "Obese people can eat up to 45% more," reports lead researcher Brian Wansink (Ph.D.), in the book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.

"People don’t realize that low-fat foods are not always low-calorie foods," says Wansink. Fat is often replaced with sugar. Low-fat snacks are an average of 11% lower in calories, but people wrongly believe they are around 40% lower.

In one study, two groups of people attending a holiday open-house were given identical regular chocolates that were labeled as either "Regular" or as "Low-fat." People served themselves an average of a third more of the candies, which would have translated into 28% more calories if they had actually been low-fat. A second study showed this is because "people believe they will feel less guilty eating the low-fat foods, so they tend to overindulge, says Pierre Chandon, co-author and marketing professor at INSEAD in France. Fat is often replaced with sugar.

The complete set of research studies, published in the November issue of the Journal of Marketing Research, was cited by the Economist as one of two significant noteworthy studies published that month. It is titled, "Can ‘Low-Fat’ Foods Lead to Obesity""

For policy makers and companies, the message is that new "low-fat" foods are unlikely to solve the obesity solution. People are very likely to over eat a low-fat foods – even if they don’t like them as much as the regular versions.

For dieters, there’s also clear message. As Wansink advises in the book Mindless Eating, "Stick with the regular version, but eat a little bit less. It’s better for both your diet and your taste buds."

Source: Cornell Food & Brand Lab

Explore further: Pediatric preventive care guidelines need retooling for computerized format, study shows

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Milk Is America's top source of much-needed vitamin D

Apr 27, 2010

America needs more vitamin D. It's one more reason to grab another glass of milk, according to new research presented at the Experimental Biology conference in Anaheim, California. Milk is the primary source of vitamin D ...

Drinking milk may help ease the pressure

Feb 20, 2008

Women who drank more fat free milk and had higher intakes of calcium and vitamin D from foods, and not supplements, tended to have a lower risk for developing hypertension or high blood pressure, according to a new study ...

Recommended for you

Preterm children's brains can catch up years later

15 hours ago

There's some good news for parents of preterm babies – latest research from the University of Adelaide shows that by the time they become teenagers, the brains of many preterm children can perform almost as well as those ...

Mortality rates increase due to extreme heat and cold

16 hours ago

Epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown that death rates rise in association with extremely hot weather. The heat wave in Western Europe in the summer of 2003, for example, resulted in about 22,000 extra deaths. A team ...

User comments : 0