Health Halos


By: Nikki Nies

What are the largest selling products in America?  Those that are easy to understand, quick to use and requires little assessment.  That description of American consumerism includes the combination of food companies marketing “healthier” options and many consumer’s quick choices of healthy foods.  For example, do you automatically assume the terms “organic”, “vitamin fortified” or “antioxidant rich” products are better for you?  A health halo is the attachment of misleading health claims to not so healthy food products.

A study by the International Journal of Obesity conducted a research study of 186 participants to examine food imageschoices and perceptions.  They had one group of foods considered “healthier” to the standard variety. In actuality, the healthier versions contained the same amount of calories per 100 g as the standard varieties.  Participants rated the healthier choice as lower in energy and than the standard choice.  The health claim of “reduced fat” is the most associated health claim to be associated with the underestimation of calories.

1470384_10201980996583749_1121757277_nIn addition, organic foods have been positively labeled as healthier than nonorganic counterparts. Consumers have stated they “taste” fewer calories and fat in organic products, which can cause people to overconsume organic products as they do not feel they are eating as much, calorie and portion wise, compared to non organic products.  There’s a huge bias, with consumers stating they would pay 23.4% more for supposedly organic food than non-organic food.

Those that are environmentally friendly, recycle and read nutrition fact labels regularly are more likely not to be duped by health claims than those that do not. The point is take all health claims with a grain of salt.  There ARE some healthier options, but you have to find them  through the weave of options. It’s important to read the nutrition facts label and ingredient list to discern the quality of the food and if the health claims are rightfully stated.  Yes, the initial process of reading the back of the box will take a while, but your health should not have a time limit on it.  Once you get the hang of what’s really healthy, it’ll become more second nature.  Remember, the fresher the better!


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