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Diet Ads Biased Against Overweight

Posted - Mar. 12, 2004 at 6:20 a.m.



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PHILADELPHIA, Mar 11, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- "Before and after" diet advertisements are unrealistic and reinforce negative stereotypes against the obese, U.S. researchers reported Thursday.

The findings, from a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University, suggest such ads promote an unreasonable perception of the uncontrollability of weight, thereby reinforcing a prevailing bias toward the obese.

"While highlighting dramatic weight loss, before-and-after images ignore the reality of dieting and encourage the notion that losing weight is easy," said lead study author Andrew Geier.

In the study, 59 people were either exposed to a before-and-after diet ad of an obese woman who had lost weight, or shown only the before or after picture embedded in a different ad.

Although most subjects indicated a strong anti-fat bias, subjects viewing the before-and-after ads were more likely to respond that weight is easily controllable.

Geier said he was concerned about the possible impact of stigmas toward the obese.

"One thing that should be obvious is that shaming someone is not the same as helping them," he said.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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