A team of experimental psychologists in the U.K. found evidence that some efforts to prevent obesity could have a counterproductive effect.
The researchers led by Dr Jeff Brunstrom, a lecturer at Bristol University, found that people who were offered special low calorie foods were more likely to help themselves to larger portions.
Volunteers were given 18 different types of food but they quickly worked out the calorie content and measured their portions depending on how full they thought they would be.
In many cases they overcompensated and ended up with as many calories as if they had not gone for the “diet” option.
Meanwhile a separate study, also by Dr Brunstrom, found that children who were rarely allowed to eat sweets or chocolate were more likely to binge because they overestimated how much they should eat.
A group of children aged 10 to 12 years old were offered six unhealthy snacks and asked to estimate how much was too much.
Those who were allowed to buy sweets and crisps proved much better at guessing calorie levels, the team found.
“These findings suggest that limiting access to certain snack foods limits learning about their properties,” Dr Brunstrom was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying.
“Thus, when snack foods are eventually encountered they might tend to be selected in larger portions.”
The findings are due to be presented to a British Nutrition Foundation conference.
Source: The Telegraph