London, July 3 : The small, diet-friendly packages of snacks -cookies, chips, and the like -- might be designed to help you control the waistline, but according to a new research, the mini packs may actually encourage people to eat more.
Research from the Netherlands has found that small "diet packs" of lollies, biscuits or chips could be encouraging people to drop their guard and eat more than they usually would.
Those who eat the mini portions feel they don't need to exercise self-control because it is a pre-portioned pack, and they end up eating several of them.
To reach their conclusions, scientists gave different sized bags of potato crisps, divided into small and large packets to 140 students recruited for what they were told was an experiment on advertising and television.
Each of the volunteers was given either two 200-gram bags of crisps or nine 45-gram bags, to munch as they watched TV. The group was asked a series of questions and was weighed in front of a mirror to trigger a diet "mindset".
The findings, published today in New Scientist magazine, show that students who were worried about their weight ate twice as many crisps if they came in small packets rather than large packets.
The group was also more likely to open the crisps and start eating them if they came in smaller bags.
Almost 60 per cent of those with small bags opened them and started eating, compared with only a quarter of those who were assigned large bags.
Smaller bags did not appear to curb the appetite of students without weight concerns either.
Those students ate the same amount of crisps from small as large bags. However, those with the smaller packets were again more likely to open them.
Three quarters of the group with small bags opened theirs while only half of those with large bags started eating the crisps.
The researchers behind the study believe that the size of small bags could encourage dieters to drop their guard.
Rik Pieters, a professor of marketing who led the study, said there could be a range of reasons why companies continue to sell smaller sized products if they make people eat more.
"Some may truly want to help consumers (with these products) - although our results suggest they won't," the Telegraph quoted Pieters, as saying.
He added: "Some may want to prevent lawsuits by showing it's not their fault consumers are overweight. Or they may know this happens, and want to look good while selling more of their products, at a higher profit."