Corporate Leanwashing and Consumer Beliefs About Obesity
Purpose of Review
Caloric overconsumption, rather than lack of exercise, is the primary driver of overweight and obesity. We review people’s beliefs about the causes of obesity, the origins and consequences of these beliefs, and suggest possible mechanisms for corrective action.
In multiple samples across the world, approximately half of the population mistakenly believes that lack of exercise is the primary cause of obesity. These misbeliefs have consequences: people who underestimate the importance of one’s diet are more likely to be overweight or obese than people who correctly believe that diet is the primary cause of obesity. Next, we discuss the systematic misrepresentation of these factors—which we call “leanwashing”—by the food and beverage industry. Corporate messaging and actions are likely contributing factors to these mistaken beliefs being so widespread, and thus corrective actions are required. These include regulation and taxation.
People’s beliefs have important medical consequences, and the origins of these beliefs and misbeliefs need to be monitored and regulated.
KeywordsObesity crisis Consumer behavior Market failure Public policy Corporate social responsibility Sugar tax
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance
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