Dieting can lead to aggressive behaviour

Updated: Mar 21, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

London: Those cutting out the calories are more irritable and angry than those who eat what they like, according to researchers.

Their study revealed that the effort involved in exerting self-control over food can even lead to aggressive behaviour towards other people.

Those on diets are more likely to prefer anger-themed movies, were more interested in looking at angry facial expressions, and expressed more irritation at a message that used controlling language to convince them to change their exercise habits, it found.

“We set out to examine whether exerting self-control can indeed lead to a wide range of angry behaviours and preferences subsequently, even in situations where such behaviours are quite subtle,” a newspaper quoted US authors David Gal of Northwestern University and Wendy Liu of the University of California, as saying.

“Research has shown that exerting self-control makes people more likely to behave aggressively toward others and people on diets are known to be irritable and quick to anger.”

Researchers found that people who chose an apple instead of a chocolate bar were more likely to choose movies with anger and revenge themes.

In a separate study, dieters had more favourable opinions toward a public policy message that used an anger-framed appeal – “if funds are not increased for police training, more criminals will escape prison” – than they did toward a “sad” message.

But participants who chose a healthy snack over a less-healthy one were more irritated by a marketer’s message that included controlling language – words such as “you ought to,” “need to,” and “must”.

The findings are published in the US Journal of Consumer Research.