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New research examines how weight loss alters women’s response to food marketing. Fairfax Media / Getty Images:
  • The study found that obese women were more likely to respond to food marketing strategies.
  • Barrier surgery, which involves changes in the digestive system to promote weight loss, reduced marketing vulnerability to the same level as in moderately overweight women.
  • Research shows that a person’s sensitivity to food marketing is not a permanent trait.

By: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)The prevalence of adult obesity in the United States increased from 30.5% in 1999–2000 to 42.4% in 2017–2018.

The prevalence of severe obesity almost doubled during the same period, from 4.7% to 9.2%.

One of the reasons for the sharp rise in obesity may be the intensive marketing of high-calorie, nutrient-rich foods in restaurants, on screens and on billboards.

Past research: suggested that overweight or obese children are more sensitive to food advertising, which can lead to a cycle of weight gain or overeating.

However, it is not clear whether obese adults are also more prone to food marketing.

Researchers in Canada and France have found that obese women are also more vulnerable to marketing, but weight loss due to bariatric surgery can save them from the cycle.

If scientists were to find that marketing still affects people after losing weight, it would be an internal vulnerability to oversaturation.

“It would mean that people have unchanging psychological characteristics that will make them more responsive to marketing, which will make it very difficult to maintain the medically recommended weight,” said lead research scientist. Ian Cornell. British Columbia University (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada.

“But one of the positives is that after significant weight loss, people are less responsive to marketing, so it is more stable to stay at a lower body mass index,” he added.

The study, which was a collaboration between UBC P Pitié-Salpêtrière University Hospital in Paris, reveals Journal of Consumer Psychology.

The researchers compared the sensitivity of three groups of women to food marketing.

  • The first group. Included 73 women with severe obesity who had to undergo bariatric surgery (gastric bypass or girdle), which included a surgical change of the digestive system to promote weight loss.
  • The second group. It consisted of 41 moderately weighted women, whom scientists called “lean control.” The team matched these individuals to the first group by age, gender, income, occupation, marital status.
  • The third group. 29 women with Ising obstruction who did not want bariatric surgery or other weight loss procedures.

The researchers tested obese patients who had to have surgery before surgery and then 3 և 12 months later.

They tested the second group twice, 6 months apart, and the third group only once.

The tests measured participants’ sensitivity to three common marketing strategies that made food և portion sizes healthier than they actually were.

The first strategy, called the “health crown” effect, involves the natural or healthy design of the product.

The researchers asked participants to rate the calories of 4 “healthy” snacks, including apple juice և granola bars, և 4 “nice” snacks, including a container of cola և chocolate bars.

In fact, “healthy” snacks all contained more calories than “nice snacks.”

The second marketing strategy involves reducing portion sizes by renaming them, which tends to force people to overeat.

The researchers asked participants to imagine a choice of a frying pan or a drink from three options.

There were labels that gave each part the actual size in grams or centiliters (cl), but these names either underestimated the size (as “mini”, “small” և “medium”) or overestimated them (as “medium” “” large “). և “too big”)

The third marketing strategy involves omitting the smallest option in the size range, which can lead to a larger selection of people.

In this test, participants were selected from a menu of 47, 65 և 95 kg or 24, 47 և 65 kg.

Tests have shown that obese women respond significantly faster than those who are moderately overweight to the effects of light-crown և size labeling.

However, it is possible that obese women who underwent bariatric surgery 12 months after the procedure were no more subject to these marketing tricks than the moderate weight control group.

In their work, the researchers cited neuropsychological studies, which suggested that brain regions involved in reward-motivation were more active in obese people.

They add that bariatric surgery can “recharge” the brain’s reward system in favor of healthier food choices.

Otherwise, they write, the psychological impact of undergoing radical surgery to lose weight may motivate patients to eat healthier.

However, it is still unclear whether people who lose weight through other means, such as exercise or diet, also respond less to food marketing.

The authors acknowledge that their study had some other limitations.

For example, they tested obese women only 12 months after surgery, so the longevity of the effects beyond this point is unknown.

In addition, all participants were adult French women. “Further research, therefore, should look at a larger, more diverse sample of obese people, including male adolescents,” they wrote.