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Weight loss changes people’s responsiveness to food marketing

Obesity charges have elevated dramatically in developed international locations over the previous 40 years — and many individuals have assumed that food marketing is at the very least partially to blame. But are folks with weight problems actually extra inclined to food marketing? And if they’re, is {that a} everlasting predisposition, or can it change over time?

According to a brand new examine by UBC Sauder School of Business Assistant Professor Dr. Yann Cornil (he/him/his) and French researchers, folks with weight problems do have a tendency to be extra responsive to food marketing — however when their weight drops considerably, so does their responsiveness to marketing.

For the examine, which was revealed within the Journal of Consumer Psychology, the researchers adopted three teams: sufferers with extreme weight problems earlier than they’d gastric bypass or different weight-loss surgical procedures (collectively referred to as bariatric surgical procedure), in addition to three and 12 months after; folks with weight problems who weren’t present process bariatric surgical procedure; and individuals who weren’t overweight.

To measure their responsiveness to food marketing, the researchers evaluated what’s referred to as framing results — that’s, how branding, promoting, and labeling “frame,” and thus affect food evaluations and selections. In one examine, members had been requested to estimate the calorie content material in well-known snacks and drinks together with some, which entrepreneurs sometimes framed as wholesome (i.e. apple juice, granola bars), and others, which aren’t framed as wholesome (i.e. comfortable drinks, chocolate bars).

The researchers discovered that everybody underestimated the calorie content material of snacks that had been framed as wholesome however the impact was extra pronounced in folks with weight problems.

To additional check the framing impact, the researchers had members hypothetically select a portion of french fries from a quick food restaurant, and gave them the dietary info they would want to make an knowledgeable determination. The three choices had been all the time the identical in amount — 71g, 117g, and 154g — however in a single occasion they had been labeled small, medium and enormous, and in one other occasion the identical parts had been labeled mini, small and medium: a marketing tactic geared toward making bigger parts appear extra cheap.

“We measured how likely people were sensitive to that framing, and whether it would change their choice of fries quantity depending on how the portions are labeled,” explains Dr. Cornil, who says the folks with weight problems had been extra doubtless to comply with the labeling and never the precise details about amount — so they might select the portion labeled “medium” regardless that that is fairly giant.

Overall the researchers, who labored carefully with the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, discovered that the folks with weight problems tended to be extra responsive to food marketing — however after they misplaced a big quantity of weight due to bariatric surgical procedure, their degree of responsiveness to food marketing dropped considerably.

“People with obesity going through bariatric surgery will become less responsive to marketing over time,” says Dr. Cornil. “And after 12 months, their responsiveness to marketing reaches the level of people with more medically-recommended weight.”

Dr. Cornil says it isn’t clear whether or not folks with weight problems turn out to be much less responsive to marketing due to physiological changes following the surgical procedure — hormonal, neurological shifts or changes to the intestine microbiota — or due to people’s need to change their life and habits. Another doable cause, he provides, is that people’s tastes have a tendency to shift following bariatric surgical procedure.

“The results clearly suggest a bidirectional influence between people’s weight status, psychology and responsiveness to the environment — including marketing,” says Dr. Cornil. “So, it’s a complex relationship.”

However, had the researchers discovered the responsiveness to marketing remained excessive even after weight loss, it could have pointed to a deeper-rooted predisposition.

“That would mean people are endowed with unchangeable psychological characteristics that would always make them more responsive to marketing — which would make it very difficult to sustain a medically-recommended weight,” he explains. “But one of the positive things is that after significant weight loss, people become less responsive to marketing, such that it is more sustainable to remain at a lower body mass index.”

Dr. Cornil says the findings are particularly essential as a result of for years, researchers have assumed that marketing messages — particularly for meals which are high-calorie and low in diet — are at the very least partly chargeable for the weight problems epidemic, however there wasn’t clear empirical proof.

“Our results provide important insights for policy-makers in charge of regulating food marketing in order to curb obesity,” says Dr. Cornil.

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Updated on April 17, 2021 7:35 pm

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