Corporate Leanwashing and Consumer Beliefs About Obesity

Peer reviewed: 
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Karnani, Aneel, Brent McFerran, and Anirban Mikhopadhyay (2017), "Corporate Leanwashing and Consumer Beliefs About Obesity". Current Nutrition Reports. 6(3) 206-211.   DOI 10.1007/s13668-017-0210-1

Date created: 
Obesity crisis
Consumer behavior
Market failure
Public policy
Corporate social responsibility
Sugar tax

Purpose of review. Caloric overconsumption, rather than lack of exercise, is the primary driver of overweight and obesity. We review people’s beliefs about the causes of obesity, and the origins and consequences of these beliefs, and suggest possible mechanisms for corrective action.Recent findings. In multiple samples across the world, approximately half the population mistakenly believes that lack of exercise is the primary cause of obesity. These misbeliefs have consequences: people who underestimate the importance of one’s diet are more likely to be overweight or obese than people who correctly believe that diet is the primary cause of obesity. Next, we discuss the systematic misrepresentation of these factors -- which we call 'leanwashing' -- by the food and beverage industry. Corporate messaging and actions are likely contributing factors to these mistaken beliefs being so widespread, and corrective actions are required. These include regulation and taxation.Summary. People’s beliefs have important medical consequences, and the origins of these beliefs and misbeliefs need to be monitored and regulated.

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Rights remain with the authors.
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)