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Stack of potato chips with red gradient backgroundIn Brief: Seeing Red: Stopping Eating

Seeing a clear edible cue, even unconsciously, may help you stop a bout of snacking, finds a new study published in Health Psychology. The study suggests that visual indicators at set portions may cause a snacker to pause, breaking up automated eating habits.

The study consisted of two trials. In both, researchers gave students tubes of potato chips to go along with a movie they were watching as part of a course. In each trial, the dyed red chips were placed at set intervals and students were told either the chips were leftover from a previous study or that they were testing how they liked multiple flavors (the red chips was given a tomato-basil flavor here).

In the first trial, students were either given tubes with one red chip at every 7 or 14 chip. In the second trial the red chip was placed at every 5 or 10 chip interval. Each trial had some students eating chips with no red dividers, the comparison groups.

On average, participants served the tubes with red chips ate about 50 percent fewer than the comparison groups. The red chip groups also more accurately estimated how many chips they ate when compared to the comparison groups. Those in the comparison groups underestimated the amount of chips they ate by about 13 chips; the test group participants estimated their portions within one chip.

Source:Andrew Geier, Brian Wansink, Paul Rozin. “Red potato chips: Segmentation cues can substantially decrease food intake.” Health Psychology, 2012; 31 (3): 398 DOI

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