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Don’t Let Colored Labels Fool You into Unhealthy Choices

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Don’t Let Colored Labels Fool You into Unhealthy ChoicesMarketing and advertising are an embedded part of our visual world. When it comes to making consumer choices you are bombarded with color choices and slogans that try to influence your decisions. In the world of nutrition, the colorful world of advertising may also have the tendency to fool you into making unhealthy food choices, according to a new study done by a researcher from the University of Cornell.

A Study in Green

According to research published in an issue of the journal, Health Communication, consumers are more likely to perceive a candy bar as being nutritious or healthier if it has a green-colored label—even if it has the same number of calories as another candy bar with a differently colored label. Green labels in general were said to increase the perceived healthiness of that particular snack or food. In the study, the researcher asked 93 university students to imagine that they were hungry while waiting in line at a grocery checkout counter. The students were then shown images of a candy bar with either a green or red calorie label. When asked if they thought a particular candy bar contained more or fewer calories, and how healthy it was, the students perceived the green-labeled bar as being healthier than the red one even though both contained the same amount of calories. Further research was conducted online. Participants were shown a picture of a candy bar with either a white label or a green label, and were asked to rate how important a food’s healthiness was (1 being not important and 7 being very important) in their decision to consume it. Results showed that the more importance participants placed on healthy eating, the more they perceived the white-labeled candy bar as being less nutritious. Researchers noted that green-colored calorie labels act as buffers for low-nutrient foods from appearing less healthy than they actually are.

Details and Supplementation

Researchers noted that as the FDA considers formulating a consistent, front-of-package labeling design, marketplace findings such as these suggest that design and color of labeling systems may deserve as much attention as the content of said labels. That said, you should never take the nutrition of a food item at face value; always read the nutrition facts and supplement facts to make sure that you’re not paying for just a pretty label.

References:

  • Jonathon P. Schuldt. Does Green Mean Healthy? Nutrition Label Color Affects Perceptions of Healthfulness. Health Communication, 2013: 1 DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2012.725270

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