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Foods labeled 'Healthy' may not be so
October 29, 2017, 3:22 pm

New research suggests that you need to be careful when reaching for that food labeled ‘Healthy’ on your supermarket shelf, as they could contain high levels of hidden sugar that may cause you to snack more later.

Prior studies have shown that sugary foods can make a person feel hungrier later in the day. But these latest findings reveal that people can exercise some self-control over sugar-driven hunger, if they are given fair warning through product packaging.

"When people think something is healthy, they do not psychologically process it that much and so the physiological factors take over. But when they think something is unhealthy, they are able to override their physical impulses," reported the study team

For their study, the researchers created two types of ‘protein’ shakes that tasted the same and contained the same amount of protein and total calories. One shake contained high sugar and low fat, while the other had low sugar and high fat.

The first phase of the experiment involved 76 college students who were randomly given either a high-sugar or low-sugar shake to drink, and then provided potato chips to snack on while watching a video. As expected, the students who had the high-sugar shake ate more potato chips.

In the second phase, researchers explored whether changing participants' perception of the shakes' healthiness would influence their snacking habits.

The sugar and non-sugar shakes were randomly passed out to another group of 193 students, but this time they included labeling. Some shakes were labeled ‘healthy living’ and carried nutrition information claiming they were low in fat, sugar and calories. Others labeled ‘indulgent’ carried info showing they were high in fat, sugar and calories.

People who drank a high-sugar shake labeled ‘indulgent’ ate the least amount of potato chips, even fewer chips than people who drank low-sugar shakes marked as either ‘healthy’ or ‘indulgent’.

Those who drank a high-sugar shake labeled ‘healthy’ ate more potato chips than any of the other three groups, the findings showed.

Many breakfast foods such as cereal, yogurt or instant oatmeal, which are marketed as healthy, often contain loads of sugar. And, this may lead to people having supposedly healthy breakfasts being hungry and eating too much over the course of a day, warned the researchers.


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