They have a pill for that: How are weight loss drugs fueling the obesity epidemic?

November 11, 2014

Consumers place great faith in weight loss pills and remedies, buying and using them more than ever before. American obesity rates, however, are skyrocketing. According to a new study in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, false beliefs about these drugs are causing Americans to gain more weight.

"Weight management remedies that promise to reduce the risks of being overweight may undermine consumer motivation to engage in health-supportive behaviors," write authors Lisa E. Bolton (Pennsylvania State University), Amit Bhattacharjee (Dartmouth College) and Americus Reed, II (University of Pennsylvania). "Put simply, why put effort into living a healthy lifestyle when a weight management remedy can take care of the problem?"

Study participants were each given free access to a bowl of chocolate cookies, with one group advised ahead of time about a new, powerful, fat-fighting pill. The group that believed in the existence of the new pill ate significantly more cookies per person--some participants consuming as many as 30. An additional test showed that the more fattening the cookie, the more the participants would overeat, as long as they expected to be able to take the weight loss pill.

The study warned that the very people who need to reduce weight the most and are desperately reaching for weight loss pills are unfortunately the ones most likely to then dangerously increase their consumption of unhealthy foods.

The good news was that encouraging consumers to look beyond the marketing and find real information about a drug was very effective in reducing their false expectations and unhealthy behavior. This same strategy could prove effective in other areas of consumer life, bringing relief, for example, to those who are trying to improve their finances but are falling prey to "quick fix" financial remedies.

"Given the ubiquity of remedies in today's marketplace, more research is needed to understand the impact of remedy marketing on consumers. There is ample room for policy makers and responsible marketers to improve remedy marketing practices to minimize potentially harmful consequences for consumers," the authors conclude.
-end-
Lisa E. Bolton, Amit Bhattacharjee, and Americus Reed, II. "The Perils of Marketing Weight Management Remedies and the Role of Health Literacy." Forthcoming in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing. For more information, contact Lisa E. Bolton (boltonle@psu.edu). https://www.dropbox.com/s/9lxfovk1zsqlna1/1-Bolton-weight%20management.docx?dl=0

American Marketing Association

Related Consumers Articles from Brightsurf:

When consumers trust AI recommendations--or resist them
The key factor in deciding how to incorporate AI recommenders is whether consumers are focused on the functional and practical aspects of a product (its utilitarian value) or on the experiential and sensory aspects of a product (its hedonic value).

Do consumers enjoy events more when commenting on them?
Generating content increases people's enjoyment of positive experiences.

Why consumers think pretty food is healthier
People tend to think that pretty-looking food is healthier (e.g., more nutrients, less fat) and more natural (e.g., purer, less processed) than ugly-looking versions of the same food.

How consumers responded to COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for laying out the different threats that consumers face, and that consumers must prepare themselves for a constantly shifting landscape moving forward.

Is less more? How consumers view sustainability claims
Communicating a product's reduced negative attribute might have unintended consequences if consumers approach it with the wrong mindset.

In the sharing economy, consumers see themselves as helpers
Whether you use a taxi or a rideshare app like Uber, you're still going to get a driver who will take you to your destination.

Helping consumers in a crisis
A new study shows that the central bank tool known as quantitative easing helped consumers substantially during the last big economic downturn -- a finding with clear relevance for today's pandemic-hit economy.

'Locally grown' broccoli looks, tastes better to consumers
In tests, consumers in upstate New York were willing to pay more for broccoli grown in New York when they knew where it came from, Cornell University researchers found.

Should patients be considered consumers?
No, and doing so can undermine efforts to promote patient-centered health care, write three Hastings Center scholars in the March issue of Health Affairs.

Consumers choose smartphones mostly because of their appearance
The more attractive the image and design of the telephone, the stronger the emotional relationship that consumers are going to have with the product, which is a clear influence on their purchasing decision.

Read More: Consumers News and Consumers Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.