Ads Encourage Risky and Unhealthy Behavior

Diet_pills-300x300A new study showed that people who read promotions about diet aids ate more.

To be published in The Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, the study exposed people to two versions of messages. Both groups read a warning about high-fat diets, but one group read this additional text: "Until now! Introducing Chitosan Rx Ultra," a weight-loss aid "capable of absorbing up to 60 percent of the fat in your food." When given a plate of cookies, people who saw the message about Chitosan took significantly more cookies, and some took all 30.

The study authors conclude, "Why make healthier food choices to manage weight if a weight-management drug can manage your weight for you?" In a related study, participants exposed to ads for debt consolidation made riskier financial decisions.

Calling something a "supplement" didn't have as drastic results as calling something a "drug." One of the authors explains the distinction: "With the supplement, the very name reminds you that this is supplemental to other health protective behavior. They think [losing weight] is something they have to do as well … but people believe that the drug alone will take care of the problem."

Image source.

Discussion Starters:

  • What, if any, responsibility do diet drug companies have in advertising?
  • The Bureau of Consumer Protection published a website to help people spot false claims of weight loss products. How useful do you find the site?