Marketing and Obesity
Prof. Oded Lowengart, a marketing expert in the Department of Business Administration, Dean of the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management and the Ernest Scheller, Jr. Chair in Innovative Management, engages in research on consumer perception and choices, as well as marketing finance and international marketing. He is interested in the interplay of perceptions and attitudes that motivate buying decisions and how both can be affected. His published studies address questions like how to influence people's fast-food choices toward healthier options, the impact of calorie count information on decisions and gender differences in food choice.
One of Prof. Lowengart's current research, together with Dr. Amir Heiman of the Hebrew University and Dr. Daniel Shapira from the GGFBM Department of Business Administration, studies examines the impact of super-thin magazine models on young women. “There's a lot of recent criticism about how skinny models lead to eating disorders and overweight," he says, “and we're also interested in the effect on the ordinary population."
Abstract: Less (Model's Weight) is More (Population Overweight): Fashion Models and the Overweight Epidemic
The body mass index (BMI) of the “ideal female" as portrayed in advertising has steadily moved downward since the 1980s. This trend began when advertising shifted to showing whole bodies rather than mostly faces, Lowengart explains.
The study, based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, reveals a counter-intuitive result. “Young females who are close in measurement to the model will restrain their eating to become similar in size to her. But if they are 20 pounds heavier than the ideal the ideal, they will see this model as unobtainable. They also tend to feel they look good relative to the general population, which generally is heavier [to obese] than young females. So, these women show no restraint in eating more calories."
Rather than losing weight, they gain weight. Young women between ages 15 and 29 account for 20 percent of the Israeli population. Therefore, in addition to moving the overall BMI statistics up, their weight has a compounding effect on the people around them and contributes to “an epidemic of obesity."
What can be done? In Israel, Lowengart says, a minimum BMI has been decreed for models. “This makes it easier for young females to compare themselves to models and is decreasing the incidence of anorexia" in those who strive to look like the models they see.