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Can "low fat" nutrition labels lead to obesity? (RV 2005/73/MKT)

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In this era of increasing obesity and increasing threats of legislation and regulation of food marketing practices, regulatory agencies have pointedly asked how "low fat" nutrition claims may influence food consumption. The authors develop and test a framework that contends that "low fat" nutrition labels increase food intake by 1) increasing perceptions of the appropriate serving size, and 2) decreasing consumption guilt. Three studies show that "low fat" labels lead all consumers-particularly those who are overweight-to overeat snack foods. Furthermore, salient objective serving size information (e.g., "servings per container: 2") only reduces overeating among guilt-prone normal weight consumers, not among overweight consumers. With consumer welfare and corporate profitability in mind, win-win packaging and labeling insights are suggested for public policy officials and food marketers.

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