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: Pregnant woman taken off life support in Ireland

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

Pregnant woman taken off life support in Ireland

3 hours ago

A brain-dead pregnant woman was taken off life support Friday after a court ruled that her 18-week-old fetus was doomed to die—a case that exposed fear and confusion among doctors over how to apply Ireland's ...

'Tis the season to overeat

Dec 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—Overeating is common during the holidays, but there are strategies that can help you eat in moderation, an expert says.

Don't let burns mar your holidays

Dec 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—The risk of burns from fires and cooking accidents increases during the holidays, so you need to be extra cautious, an expert says.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.