Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, how food manufacturers use “health washing” to convince you to buy their products, why tracking your symptoms may have an adverse effect on your health, and good news for extroverts in the workplace.

Have you fallen prey to health washing?

Have you ever picked up a delicious box of your favorite cereal boasting “high-protein,” “low-fat” or “full of fiber” on the front and thought to yourself, This is too good to be true! Well, you’re probably right.

In a series of studies conducted by Rotterdam School of Management and Vanderbilt University and reported in this Fast Company article, researchers found that the claims made on many of the packaged foods we purchase at the grocery store often have no basis in truth when it comes to the items’ nutritional profile—but buyers still perceive these items as “healthier.”

This is referred to as “health washing”—and it’s not a new strategy, either. For decades, cereal manufacturers have used claims of vitamins and fiber on their packaging to mask the added sugars in their products. In this particular study, the research team found that of the 633 cereals, more than 70 percent of them displayed a nutrition claim—either scientific (“low-fat” or high-protein”) or natural (“wholesome or “organic”). To test the effectiveness of these health-washing claims, the team created five mock-up boxes of cornflakes, all with a different claim on the box. They then asked more than 600 people to choose the best box.

“Natural claims were stronger drivers of choice than scientific claims,” says Quentin André, Ph.D., an assistant professor of marketing at Rotterdam School of Management. “People think organic means there’s less fat in it, less sugar, and they have association that extends beyond the actual meaning of the food. But organic doesn’t mean the food is healthier for you. Just that it’s organic.”

So how do we keep from falling into this packaging pitfall? André suggests looking at the nutrition label instead.

Track your steps, not your symptoms

Many of us use trackers and apps to see everything from our daily step count to how many hours we slept. And while it’s helpful to keep track of certain things to make sure we’re on track to meet our goals, when it comes to tracking our symptoms, this can often have an adverse effect on our health.

According to this article by Wired, thinking about symptoms will make them more likely to occur, referred to as the “nocebo” effect.

“The body’s response can be triggered by negative expectations,” says Luana Colloca, M.D, Ph.D., a University of Maryland neuroscientist and physician who studies placebo and nocebo effects. “It’s a mechanism of self-defense. From an evolutionary point of view, we’ve developed mechanisms to prevent dangerous situations.”

Tracking your symptoms can produce anxiety and potentially more pain. For example, if you think you struggle with insomnia, you will likely have trouble sleeping. Furthermore, tracking symptoms like pain or discomfort can bring them to the forefront of our attention and magnify them.

Four ways extroverts win in the workplace

Good news for extroverts: According to science, those with more outgoing, talkative personalities tend to enjoy a few more advantages in the workplace than their introverted counterparts.

According to a new study by the University of Toronto and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, extroverts enjoy distinct workplace advantages in four categories: motivational, emotional, interpersonal and performance.

Michael Wilmot, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Management at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, who led the study, says that extroversion is directly linked with a greater sense of motivation to achieve goals, as well as experiencing more frequent positive emotions. Because of this, he says, happy employees are more apt to work harder, be better leaders and experience less stress at work. Furthermore, because extroverts are social creatures by nature, interpersonal communication is another distinct advantage, as extroverts more quickly adapt in social situations and have strong communication skills.

The fourth advantage, job performance, came as the most surprising, Wilmot says, but upon reflection, the first three advantages are likely the cause.

“If you’re motivated to achieve a goal at work, if you’re feeling positive and you’re good at dealing with people, you’re probably going to perform better on the job,” he says. “These advantages appear to have a cumulative effect over the span of one’s career.”

However, introverts should not be discouraged by these findings, as Wilmot notes, everyone shows a range of both introverted and extroverted behaviors.

“You might be more introverted, but if you’re intelligent, work hard and bring other things to the table, you’re probably going to do well,” he says.

Photo credit: Kalaca Studio, Unsplash