Buzzwords on food packaging is duping consumers into believing the products are healthier than they are, an academic has claimed.

A team at Houston University found that terms like ‘gluten-free’, ‘natural’, wholegrain’ and ‘antioxidant’ are tricking people into disregarding other unhealthy ingredients included. They found that the effect of such marketing can even counteract warnings in nutrition fact boxes.

Free-from products can, in fact, pack more salt, sugar and fat than original versions in order to make them more paletable. According to The Telegraph, Keikin Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes contain contains 6.8g of sugar compared with McVities Jaffa Cakes which only have 6g and Genius Gluten Free Soft White Loaf contains 3g of fat per slice, while Warburton’s original Soft White Farmhouse Loaf has just 0.7g.

Gluten free

Tesco’s gluten-free pitta bread contains five times as much fat as the store’s own brand and Marks & Spencer’s wheat-free bread contains almost three times more fat than the regular version.

Ribena advertises the antioxidant effect of Vitamic C on its packaging but contains 10g of sugar per 100ml compared with 0.1g for other own brand versions.

Confusion over labelling is contributing to overeating, which is to blame for 90% of obesity. The research has prompted calls for clearer food labelling to help consumers eat more healthily and consumer fewer calories.