People trying to lose weight are often attracted to food products that promote fitness. However, those so-called “fitness foods” can actually make people gain weight, a recent study suggests.
"Marketing foods and branding them as 'fitness' and 'active' and 'healthy' is a really popular sales strategy," lead researcher Dr. Holly Phillips said in a statement. "So the researchers wanted to know how it essentially affects us." They found that people tended to overconsume foods that used label terms such as "fitness" and "healthy."
"In part, it comes down to what we call the 'health halo,' where we tend to overindulge and take in more calories if we feel the snacks are healthy. But to me, it also kind of exposed this insidious way that labeling gives people who are trying to lose weight a false sense of security," Phillips explained.
For the study, the researchers supplied a bag of trail mix to a group of weight-conscious men and women. Nearly 50 percent of the snacks were labeled as “fitness” while the rest were labeled “trail mix.”
During the first phase of the research, participants were told to snack on the food at will for eight minutes. In the second phase, they were asked to exercise on a stationary bike after eating the snacks. They were given the liberty to decide the intensity of the exercise.
The researchers found that participants who ate "fitness"-branded trail mix consumed 59 more calories than those who snacked on the plain trail mix. In addition, the former group burned 11 fewer calories than the latter group, hence performing the exercise less vigorously.
The complete study has been published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Marketing Research.