Focus on food benefits, not food harms


cornell045v03When it comes to health messages, a study at the Cornell University Food & Brand Lab found that we should concentrate on the good messages and not the bad ones. That is, tell those who need convincing that broccoli is good, but leave out “hamburgers is bad”. Negative messages just don’t work for us, which is probably bad news for all those health campaigns who have spent thousands on focussing on the “don’t do” messages.

Researchers analysed 43 published studies and found that experts in fields of health and nutrition were interested in what is bad, but that the general public would rather know what is good for them and why.

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This is an interesting finding I think. From my own observations, it doesn’t seem to matter how much I tell people that kale or beetroot are good foods to eat, if whoever is listening to me doesn’t like either vegetable, they simply switch off and screw their face up. However, I’ve never experienced an occasion where telling someone that a food item high in sugar and saturated fat (such as a donut) has poor health consequences immediately triggers them to put it down and walk away. Having said that, if someone does like a particular food, then often telling them its health benefit does tend to inspire them to buy more of it. So I do see the logic in this message.