Food Vision Asia 2016 preview

Consumers ‘leanwashed’ by belief that exercise is key to weight loss

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags Food vision asia Nutrition

Food companies are responsible for “leanwashing” consumers by persuading them that a lack of exercise, rather than an unhealthy diet, is the primary cause of obesity, a Hong Kong-based researcher claims.

In a paper to be published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, Anirban Mukhopadhyay said that controlling one’s food intake is far more important than exercise when it comes to weight reduction, despite widespread use of the leanwashing tactic, which he coined.

Associate Professor Anirban Mukhopadhyay

Associate Professor Mukhopadhyay, a marketing specialist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said that food companies capitalise on consumers’ misconception that insufficient exercise is mostly responsible for obesity.

Ordinary people should believe the right thing—poor diet is the most important factor contributing to weight gain and obesity​,” Prof. Mukhopadhyay told the South China Morning Post​. 

The obesity crisis is worldwide and growing very fast. In 2014, a McKinsey report estimated the worldwide cost of obesity to be US$2tr—the same as the cost of smoking, or from all war and terrorism combined​.

Do not expect to lose weight through exercise. Exercise has great health benefits, but control of food intake is much more important when it comes to weight restriction​,” he added.

Prof. Mukhopadhyay will elaborate on the leanwashing trend when he appears at Food Vision Asia in Singapore from April 27-29, the first time the event will take place in Asia.

Food Vision Asia, which is organised by William Reed Business Media, the publisher of FoodNavigator-Asia, is well-established in Europe and America, where annually it brings food industry innovators, strategists and analysts together to discuss market challenges, business opportunities and what today’s consumers really want.

The programme for the Asia event​ was released earlier this week, and includes a session led by Prof. Mukhopadhyay, who will look at strategies employed by companies that make people fatter, and what the food industry, policymakers and ordinary people can do about it.

Medical research makes it clear that poor diet makes a bigger contribution to obesity than lack of exercise. Many people, however, believe the exact opposite​,” said Prof. Mukhopadhyay. 

Drawing on studies conducted across several countries, the leading expert on the interplay between consumers’ beliefs, emotions, and self-regulatory behaviour has found how this mistaken belief has been directly driving levels of obesity up, making individuals more likely to be overweight. 

Yet, he says around half of consumers still believe that poor diet is not the primary cause of obesity.

For more information on Food Vision Asia, visit


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1 comment

Diet is Important

Posted by ash,

Exercise is important, but at the end of day it still comes down to diet. You can lose weight without any exercises at all, since weight loss is just calories in vs calories out. Working out only builds or maintains muscle mass. Exercises aerobic in nature, burns more calories and puts you in a larger caloric deficit. But the foundation such as your diet still needs to be spot on. The best way to lose weight, is to find a diet program that places you in a caloric deficit. I had 80 pounds to lose, I was put in a caloric deficit using the 3 week diet program. I would introduce re-feed days every two weeks to prevent my metabolic from plateauing. In 6-7 months I’ve managed to lose 80 pounds. If you don’t know, re-feeds is where you would increase your carbohydrate by 100 percent or more for one day. This will increase your bodies’ leptins levels, which is a fat burning hormone. When you stay in a caloric deficit for too long, your bodies leptins levels naturally drop. This was with light exercise, twice a week to ensure that I don’t sit at my desk all day. So losing weight mainly comes down to your diet. This is the program I used, and is great for anyone starting out,
. Also, I really enjoy your content. . I shared your content.

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