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People eat more when food is labeled 'healthy', study says


A new study suggests that people tend to overeat when they eat food that has been labeled "healthy", CBS News reports.

According to a report published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, people tend to order larger portions, eat more and feel less full when they eat food that has been labeled as "healthy".

"It's quite ironic. The more we put out foods that are labeled healthy, we could be abetting the obesity epidemic rather than combatting it," said study author Jacob Suher, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin's McCombs School of Business.

"The word 'nourishing' brings up another unconscious intuition that seems to override the one attached to the word 'healthy,' " Suher said.

The researchers found that people overeat "healthy" food because they consider it less filling.

Registered dietitian Joy Dubost said the study shows the power of a person's subconscious in shaping eating behaviors.

"When people say mind over matter, it really does seem to be a big factor," said Joy Dubost, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

"What your perception is of the food you eat can be very different from how your body is responding to it. Clearly, we need to start addressing both the conscious and the subconscious in our messages about healthy eating."

The study, which took place in three phases, revealed that people linked unhealthy foods with the thought of feeling full. 

The researchers also found that participants ordered more and ate more if they'd been told the food was healthy, compared with students who were told it was unhealthy.

"People are more likely to consume unhealthy foods to fullness, because they're either served in larger portion sizes or are seen as tastier," Suher said.

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