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Food Names Tend To Fool Dieters Looking For Healthy Food Choices

June 13, 2011: 12:00 AM EST
Peoples’ perceptions of the healthfulness of food items varies with the name of the food, a University of South Carolina study among 520 participants has found. Dieters are especially vulnerable to being duped by food names that suggest “healthy,” compared to non-dieters. In the study, food items with healthy names such as “salad” were rated healthier than identical food items with less healthy names such as “pasta,” a phenomenon researchers referred to as “naming traps.” Non-dieters did not make such distinctions in their ratings. Dieters given a choice between the same candy labeled “fruit chew” and “candy chew,” for example, perceived the candy named fruit chew as more healthful. Researchers recommended that dieters should pay attention to nutritional information on food products and menus and ignore food names.
Caglar Irmak, et al., "The Impact of Product Name on Dieters’ and Non-Dieters’ Food Evaluations and Consumption (Pub. date: August 2011)", Press release, Univ. of South Carolina, June 13, 2011, © Univ. of South Carolina
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