Food and Behaviour Research

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13 June 2014 - ScienceDaily - How food marketing creates false sense of health

Melissa Carroll

Health-related buzzwords, such as 'antioxidant,' 'gluten-free' and 'whole grain,' lull consumers into thinking packaged food products labeled with those words are healthier than they actually are, according to a new research study.

That "false sense of health," as well as a failure to understand the information presented in nutrition facts panels on packaged food, may be contributing to the obesity epidemic in the United States, said Temple Northup, an assistant professor at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at UH and principal investigator of the study, "Truth, Lies, and Packaging: How Food Marketing Creates a False Sense of Health."

The study examined the degree to which consumers link marketing terms on food packaging with good health. It found that consumers tend to view food products labeled with health-related euphemisms as healthier than those without them. The research also showed that the nutrition facts panels printed on food packaging as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration do little to counteract that buzzword marketing.