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Can "low-fat" nutrition labels lead to obesity?

Author: Wansink, Brian ; Chandon, PierreINSEAD Area: MarketingIn: Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 43, no. 4, November 2006 Language: EnglishDescription: p. 605-617.Type of document: INSEAD ArticleNote: Please ask us for this itemAbstract: How do the nutrition claims on packaged goods influence how much a person eats? In an era of increasing obesity and increasing threats of legislation, regulation, and boycotts, this question is a concern both to responsible packaged goods companies and to regulatory agencies. To address this question, the authors develop and test a framework that shows how relative nutrition claims (such as "low-fat") can increase food intake by increasing perceptions of appropriate serving size and decrease anticipation of consumption guilt. Three studies show that relative nutrition claims can lead all consumers to overeat, but this becomes more exaggerated for overweight consumers than for those of normal weight. Further results show that providing objective serving size information eliminates the overeating that is encouraged by low-fat nutrition claims, but only among normal weight consumers. With consumer welfare and corporate profitability in mind, win-win labeling insights are suggested for manufacturers and public policy officials.
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How do the nutrition claims on packaged goods influence how much a person eats? In an era of increasing obesity and increasing threats of legislation, regulation, and boycotts, this question is a concern both to responsible packaged goods companies and to regulatory agencies. To address this question, the authors develop and test a framework that shows how relative nutrition claims (such as "low-fat") can increase food intake by increasing perceptions of appropriate serving size and decrease anticipation of consumption guilt. Three studies show that relative nutrition claims can lead all consumers to overeat, but this becomes more exaggerated for overweight consumers than for those of normal weight. Further results show that providing objective serving size information eliminates the overeating that is encouraged by low-fat nutrition claims, but only among normal weight consumers. With consumer welfare and corporate profitability in mind, win-win labeling insights are suggested for manufacturers and public policy officials.

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