I’m on a panel for the NYAS’s conference on Conflicts of Interest in Healthcare: Opportunities for Self-Reflection and Action, June 24-25. Location: 7 World Trade Center. 250 Greenwich St, 40th Floor. Information and registration are here. My panel is on the 25th at 10:45 a.m. , Session VI: Hot topic discussion: getting to the truth in nutrition science. Other panelists are Mona Calvo fro Penn State, Mehmood Khan from Life Biosciences, and Linda Van Horn from Northwestern. Moderator is Julia Belluz from Vox.
Choosing foods: salads, French fries, and supplements
In early April, the New York Times briefly reported the results of an eating behavior experiment. Investigators asked college students to choose foods from menus that differed in only one feature; one menu offered a salad and the other did not. The point? To find out whether the presence of a salad on the menu influenced what else the students ate. It did. The students choose French fries more often from the menu with the salad. The authors’ interpretation: the “health aura” of salads gives people permission to indulge. Their paper will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Health aura explains a lot about current food marketing trends. You may have noticed that vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3’s are added to everything these days. Coupled with the downturn in the economy, health aura does wonders for sales of dietary supplements. Despite underwhelming evidence for their effectiveness, supplements fly off the shelves. They cost a lot less than health care (and, perhaps, do less harm).