To avoid overeating, food should be marketed as a “meal” rather than a “snack,” researchers say

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01 Nov 2017 --- Marketing food as a “snack” leads to increased consumption and continued overeating, according to a study by Professor Jane Ogden and her researchers from the University of Surrey, who examined the impact of labeling food products as “snacks” or “meals.”

During this study, eighty participants were asked to eat a pasta pot which was either labeled as a “snack” or a “meal.” Each pot was presented as a “snack” (eaten standing up from a plastic pot with a plastic fork) or a 'meal' (seated at a table from a ceramic plate and metal fork). Once consumed, participants were invited to take part in an additional taste test of different foods (animal biscuits, hula hoops, M&M's and mini cheddars.)

Researchers found that those who had eaten pasta labeled as a “snack” ate more at the taste test then when it had been labeled as a 'meal.' It was also found that those who ate the 'snack' standing up consumed more (50 percent more total mass, sweet mass and total calories and 100 percent more M&M's) than those who had eaten the pasta sitting down at a table. This unique set of results demonstrate that when a food is labeled as a snack rather than a meal consumption is higher, particularly when standing rather than sitting.

Researchers have attributed this to a combination of factors and believe that when eating a snack, we are more easily distracted and may not be conscious of consumption. They also argue that memories for snacks and meals may be encoded differently in our subconscious and that we are unable to recall what we have eaten as a “snack.”

Obesity is a growing problem in the UK with levels reported to have trebled in the last 30 years with 24.9 percent of people now deemed obese, the highest levels in Europe. It is estimated that £16 billion a year is spent on the direct medical costs of diabetes and conditions related to being overweight or obese.

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