Are You a Hedonist? You May Be Falling for Food Industry Propaganda

A new study looks at how our tendency to indulge is linked to our beliefs about food.
March 3, 2017, 4:00pm
Photo via Flickr user Lucas Richarz

If you read this site regularly, you know that there is no shortage of scientific data cautioning us against the dangers of some of our favorite foods. And there is also plenty of paid food industry propaganda out there trying to contradict it.

But if you self-identify as a hedonist, you probably like to indulge in decadentover-the-top food, regardless of the scientific literature on the topic.

Well, that tension is also at the heart of new research looking at how personal values and attitudes affect our eating habits and trust in nutritional information. Specifically, the information disseminated by the food industry.


READ MORE:  The Sugar Industry Paid Scientists to Downplay Sugar's Health Risks

The study, published in the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition, looked at 3,945 middle-class household "food providers," meaning people who bring home the bacon (so to speak), in Australia, Singapore, Shanghai, Vietnam, and Indonesia. It turns out that for many of those middle-class households, that means a lot of actual bacon, as in cured meats, fattening snacks, and other heavily processed foods.

Authors of the study gathered information about these food providers' demographics, personal values, trust in sources of nutrition information, BMI, and use of convenience food outlets, defined as "fast food restaurants (McDonalds, KFC), vending machines, street stalls, newsagents, petrol stations, and other similar outlets."

After crunching the self-reported numbers, the researchers found a significant relationship between use of convenience food outlets and "hedonist values" as well as "trust in food industry sources of nutrition information." Conversely, they also found that lesser use of convenience food outlets and trust in health sources of nutrition information was associated with traditional, or "community-oriented" values.

READ MORE:  Study Claims that Subway's 'Chicken' Is Only About 50-Percent Meat

So does being a hedonist mean that you're more likely to go in on a couple of Cheesy Gordita Crunches regardless of scientific data? Not exactly. But it does suggest, according to authors, that hedonists will skew their beliefs to accommodate their appetite.

"We hypothesized that hedonists may be more predisposed to the exciting imagery and promises made in food marketing and so would be more likely to trust industry sources of information and to use convenience outlets that sell processed foods and beverages," the study said.

Although the authors admitted that these results still need to be replicated and expanded upon, they say that the results imply that "improvements in the quality of foods sold in convenience food outlets combined with stronger regulation of food marketing and long-term food education are required."

If this research is to be believed, and if you do happen to be a hedonist, we're fairly confident that it won't have any impact on your love of double cheeseburgers.