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More and more people from the "low carb world" are taking their thoughts to the web in
the form of "blogs" (short for weblogs). And they're making a lot of sense. In fact,
blogging — an activity that's reaching phenomenon status is probably the best
way to get a message "out there."
So each month, we'll be bringing you the "Best of the low carb Blogs." The topics
won't always be about low carb per se. We're simply choosing those entries that we, at
Low Carb Luxury, find to be buzz-worthy.
This month, we feature an entry from Dr. Mike's Blog, written by Protein Power
doc, Michael R. Eades. Michael is a good friend of ours, and has a gift for drawing in
his readers. His warmth and down-to-earth nature always show through, but make no mistake,
Mike Eades is one very sharp fellow. Visit
his blog each week to read all that he has to offer!
Low-Fat Foods Lead to Increased Consumption
I just got a fascinating paper from the business and marketing literature describing studies done
on how people's consumption increases when they believe the foods they are eating are low-fat. The
paper, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, describes three studies showing that subjects,
particularly if they are overweight, tend to overeat snack foods when they believe they are lower
In the first study, the researchers provided the subjects — who were students and their families visiting
a university open house — with gallon containers of unusual colored M&Ms labeled either 'New Colors of
Regular M&Ms' or 'New Low-fat M&Ms.' (The M&Ms were exactly the same — there are no low-fat M&Ms.) The
only difference in these M&Ms was the labels on the bowls. The subjects were instructed to eat as
much as they wanted as they roamed through the display areas. Upon leaving, the subjects gave up
their containers of candy and answered a questionnaire. The researchers measured the amount of M&Ms
left in the bowls and compared the consumption of the 'Regular' to the 'Low-fat' and correlated the
results to the answers on the questionnaire.
It turns out that the people eating the 'low-fat' M&Ms consumed 28.4% more calories than those
consuming the 'regular' M&Ms. When broken down by weight of the subjects, the differences were
even more dramatic.
Overweight subjects eating the 'low-fat' M&Ms consumed 47% more calories than than did overweight
subjects who got the 'regular' M&Ms. Normal weight subjects consumed only 16% more calories than
the normal weight subjects eating the 'regular' M&Ms.
All subjects were asked to estimate how many calories of M&Ms they had eaten. All subjects
significantly underestimated their consumption, but the overweight subjects way underestimated
how many of the 'low-fat' M&Ms they had eaten.
These findings are not just fascinating, they have real world implications. As the authors point
"Because low-fat foods are believed to contain fewer calories than regular versions, it might be
reasonable for a hungry calorie counter to consume more candy when it is described as low-fat
than when it is not. The key question for public health is whether a low-fat claim would lead
such a person to eat so much more that it offsets the potentially lower-calorie density of
low-fat foods. To determine this, we surveyed the fat and calorie content of all brands of
chocolate candies, bars, cookies, milk drinks, and muffins with a least a 5% market share.
We found 17 brands that were sold with both a regular and a low-fat version of the same product.
The serving sizes indicated on the products were similar for both versions. Although, on average,
the low-fat versions contained 59% less fat per serving than regular versions, they contained only
15% fewer calories (140 verses 170 calories). If participants in [the study] had eaten real low-fat
M&Ms (with the market average of 15% fewer calories than regular chocolate candies), they would
have consumed 47% less fat but 9% more total calories. This is a conservative estimate. In
reality, the increase in calories is likely to be even higher because the ingredients used to
replace fat tend to make people hungrier." [My italics]
What is it, do you suppose, that they use to replace the fat in low-fat candies that makes people
hungrier? You got it. Sugar. And nowadays probably high-fructose corn syrup.
Copyright © January 2007 Michael R. Eades and Low Carb Luxury
So, we've got a situation where people think they're being good and eating less fat, but in
reality are consuming at least 9% more calories than they would had they eaten the non-low-fat
variety. And chowing down on way, way more sugar than that found in the regular varieties of
snacks. Knowing, as all good low-carbers do, the profound effects of sugar on fat-storing metabolism,
it's fairly easy to see why low-fat foods would lead to obesity.
These foods encourage people to eat more sugar.
Michael R. Eades, MD