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Health Food Makes Us Fat

Health Food Makes Us Fat

By Helen Potter

Science has finally come up with an answer to 'the American obesity paradox' - how the rise in the popularity of healthy food has paralleled the rise in obesity rates. Apparently it's all down to self-delusion.

Pierre Chandon from INSEAD in France and Brian Wansink from Cornell University found that when people ate food they perceived as 'healthy' they then chose drinks, side orders and desserts which amounted to up to 131% more calories than with an 'unhealthy' main course.

The study showed that we're more likely to underestimate the calories in food from a restaurant that claims to be healthy - and then to reward ourselves for being good by stocking up on drinks and desserts.

"These studies help explain why the success of fast-food restaurants serving lower-calorie foods has not led to the expected reduction in total calorie intake and in obesity rates," the authors comment in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Instead the researchers recommend seeing beyond the current good food versus bad food approach and look at whether the health claims of advertisers actually match up to the food you ordered.

I'm sorry folks, but that flash of virtuous pride as you substitute your Big Mac for a Subway sandwich is a lie. It looks like the only way to make sure you get that healthy food is to whip out your calculator and count the calories the old fashioned way.

Get more from Helen or try one of these for size:

- Spoof - Fake tanning's perils
- Advice - Try the Justice Diet
- Interesting - 'No fear' pill on the way
- Obvious - Clothes are best UV protection
- Hooray! - Chocolate is good for you!

Image: James Farmer

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02 May 2009
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