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Are Your Food’s Labels Keeping You Fat?
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Are Your Food’s Labels Keeping You Fat?

According to research, some 34 million people start a new diet plan every year, most of them to lose weight. However, those dieters may be falling into what scientists are calling the “food trap”. In a study performed by researchers at the University of South Carolina, dieters and those who define themselves as “healthy” eaters, tend to look at the food’s name rather than its actual ingredients and that may be the problem. Over 520, dieters and non-dieters were shown several different food products and were asked to gauge how healthy or unhealthy they were as well as to give themselves what would count as a healthy serving of that food.

Of those in the survey group, the dieters were more likely to confuse foods when they were given healthier sounding names, even when nothing about the food itself had been changed. For instance, the dieters looked at a product called Pasta Salad as healthier when the word “salad” came first rather than pasta. When candy chews were called fruit chews, the group were all too ready to eat more of them because they felt they were actually healthy. This research is being published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Names are not the only problem with food labels, according to researchers. In a 2006 research study, it was discovered that reading and math skills were a stumbling block to deciphering the confusing labels on many foods. In that study, only one in three adults could correctly identify the number of carbohydrates in a single serving of soda if that bottle held more than one serving. Sixty percent could calculate the number of carbs and calories in half of a bagel that was labeled as a whole bagel serving size.

Part of the problem is marketing - the marketers use labels that are meant to confuse consumers, either making them think that the foods they are eating are healthier than they really are or making them think that they are eating a normal sized, healthy portion. In response to consumer rights groups, there were guidelines released in regard to the labels and what they could and could not say, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is completely compliant. A separate study showed that people who eat from a large size container or bag tend to eat as much as two times what the serving size should be.But, those single serving packs could be problematic as well when people confused them with lower calorie foods and ate more than the single package.

Experts, including nutritionists, have repeatedly tried to teach people that reading the food label means reading the entire thing, especially the back panel. Keeping in mind that a serving size is not the same for everyone and that individual needs should be addressed accordingly. It is important to know how many calories that your body needs each day, especially if you are trying to lose weight.


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