Men more sensitive than women to fat-reduced label

University Park, Pa. --- College age men who said they weren't inclined to eat low-fat foods were more easily influenced by false content labels than fat and calorie-conscious women in a recent Penn State study. Fed a low-fat, low-calorie lunch that was falsely labeled High Fat/High Calorie, the men reported less hunger and ate significantly fewer snacks later on than when they were fed the very same lunch correctly labeled Low Fat/Low Calorie. The women, on the other hand, ate the same amount of snacks regardless of the labeling or actual fat and calorie content of their lunch.

Women rated the lunches labeled Low Fat/Low Calorie significantly higher in "liking" and "satisfaction" than the men did. Both men and women, however, rated lunches labeled "Low Fat/Low Calorie" less rich even when the food was actually full fat - indicating that they really couldn't tell the difference.

The study director, Dr. S. E. Specter, assistant professor of nutrition, says, "Even though we expected the fat and calorie conscious females to be more responsive to written and verbal cues, it was the males who paid attention to the labels."

Specter notes that one reason the men probably were more influenced by the labels is because paying attention to fat and calorie content was a new behavior for them.

The College of Health and Human Development researcher will detail his study today (Nov. 16) at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity meeting in Charleston, S.C. His paper, "Examining the Relative Importance of External vs. Internal Cues Influencing Food Intake Behaviors in Response to Fat-Modified Foods," was co-authored by Julia A. Ello, Penn State doctoral candidate.

The study involved 21 males and 22 females and was representative of the typical young male who's not interested in low fat/low calorie foods and the young women who are. The study was also the first of its type to involve foods normally eaten in which the calorie content

Contact: Barbara Ann Hale
Penn State

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