Prepared Foods July 25, 2005 enewsletter

According to recent research in the U.S., "Due to the efforts of the modern health media and food industry, some foods have been praised as healthful while at the same time others have been criticized as promoters of disease and obesity.”

Does this categorical thinking concerning foods influence judgments of the weight-enhancing properties of foods?

"In the present study, a group of snack names that were shown to possess positive reputations for health (e.g., raisins) along with snack names that were more disreputable in terms of wholesomeness (e.g., potato chips) were rated in terms of their capacity to promote weight gain."

"The results indicated that lower-calorie-disreputable snacks were always perceived to promote greater weight gain than much higher-calorie-reputable snacks. Further, fat content rather than sugar or carbohydrate content best predicted the respondents' ratings," wrote Michael E. Oakes at the University of Scranton. "The good versus bad message that we have assimilated concerning food may be contributing to our weight troubles."

Oakes published the study in Food Quality and Preference (“Beauty or Beast: Does Stereotypical Thinking About Foods Contribute to Overeating?” Food Qual Preference, 2005;16(5):447-454).

For additional information, contact M.E. Oakes, Department of Psychology, University of Scranton, 800 Linden Street, Scranton, PA 18510-4596. E-mail: