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Women Consume More Chocolates When Forbidden

Update Date: Dec 12, 2012 07:34 AM EST

We all know that feeling of wanting to do something even more, when we know we are forbidden from doing it. A new study by Australian researchers suggests that the same feeling may be working behind women who are dissuaded from over-indulging in chocolate, making them want to consume it more.

The study, by researchers from the University of Western Australia and University of Strathclyde, has found that warnings intended to discourage women from over-indulging in chocolate can actually result in more consumption.

In their study, the researchers found that low restraint eaters (non-dieters) were more tempted to eat chocolate when presented with negative messaging. Negative warning include facts like it could lead to obesity, or phrases like "a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips," Medical Xpress reported.

Lead author professor Kevin Durkin suggests that the outcome of the study is known as 'reactance' - when warnings work the opposite way for people, increasing their desire for the forbidden product.

"Reactance could be more marked among the low restraint participants because they are generally less preoccupied with regulating their food intake and thus find external attempts to intervene in freely determined behavior more jarring," he says.

On the other hand, the negative messaging did not seem to affect people who dieted on a regular basis, but they did react strongly to the visual imagery in ads.

When dieters were offered chocolate while they were shown ads featuring thin models, they tended to show more desire to eat chocolate. The increased desire to eat chocolate resulted in increased consumption and ultimately more guilt.

"Among participants with high restraint, those exposed to the thin model consumed significantly more chocolate, while model size didn't have any real impact on those with low restraint," Durkin says.

According to Durkin, this could be because dieters are more susceptible to a 'thin fantasy brought about by viewing ideal body images'. An earlier study found that when restrained eaters looked at thin models, not only did they express more desire to be thinner, they also perceived themselves to be thinner.  

"These women enjoy a self-enhancement or inspirational effect from the image. Because this results in feeling that they are closer to reaching their ideal form, they experience a reduction in the pressure to maintain their regimens," Dr. Durkin says.

"From a chocolate advertiser's perspective, exploitation of young women's vulnerability to the thin ideal has some attractions."

There were 80 female participants involved in the study, aged between 17 and 26. They were all administered a questionnaire and their responses were analyzed.

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