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Healthy Fitness Foods Are Making You Fat & Lazy

Fitness and health related products and food items are exploding onto the market. While those products are touting health benefits and ‘good for you’ claims, they’re secretly making you fat and lazy. That’s the results of a recent study looking at fitness branded products and its effects on consumer behaviour.

A recent article published in the Journal of Marketing Research compiled data from three studies of over 500 participants which tried to examine how certain products which were marketed to fitness and health oriented consumers might actually negatively affect the behaviours of those consumers. Here are the following details of the three studies in question:

  • Study 1 – 162 males and females were assigned to two groups; one who received a packet of trail mix labelled “Fitness” with picture of a pair of running shoes while the other group received a packet of trail mix labelled “Trail Mix”.
  • Study 2 – 231 males and females were given similar packets of trail mix labelled as before. One group was told about the “vitamin and mineral content and its positive effects on weight management”. The other group was told about “the fatty acids, sugar and oils in it which could lead to weight gain”.
  • Study 3 – 145 males and females were asked to cycle “for as long as they felt like” after eating the trail mix, labelled as in study 2.

Participants were given a 33 item questionnaire which examined their dietary habits and grossly identified them as being restrained eaters (those who are more inclined to restrict food intake for health reasons) and unrestrained eaters (those who aren’t too fussed about food intake). The researchers found the following results:

  • Restrained eaters ate more trail mix if it was labelled “Fitness” than “Trail Mix”
  • Restrained eaters ate more trail mix if they were told of positive benefits of eating trail mix.
  • Restrained eaters exercised for less time after eating trail mix that touted the positive benefits.

Practical Applications

If you’re someone who worries about what they eat quite often, you might be be unconsciously and negatively susceptible to fitness branded products. The “health halo” effect is nothing new and describes a process whereby a consumer will eat more or be more willing to purchase something that is considered healthy, whether through marketing or actual nutrient profile. Too much of a good thing is still too much and can lead to unwanted and often unexpected weight gain. So be wary of this the next time you’re shopping, watch your portion sizes and know that healthy foods doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t cause weight gain.

1. Joerg Koenigstorfer, Hans Baumgartner. The Effect of Fitness Branding on Restrained Eaters' Food Consumption and Post-Consumption Physical Activity. Journal of Marketing Research, 2015; 150422090637005

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