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Health or hedonist

Maybe we’re all on a health teeter-totter. When we do something healthy, we often follow it up with something unhealthy.

Maybe we’re all on a health teeter-totter. When we do something healthy, we often follow it up with something unhealthy.


Call it normal human behaviour.


An intriguing new study in Taiwan has shown that people who have taken a multivitamin tend to reward themselves by indulging in unhealthy behaviour (such as partying).


In the study, 82 people were divided into two groups: those who were told they were taking a multivitamin and those who weren’t. The vitamin supplement group was more likely to take part in risky behaviours such as casual sex, sunbathing, wild parties, and excessive drinking than the group that didn’t think they were taking a multivitamin. Those who thought they were taking a supplement also had a lower desire to exercise, to have a healthy meal, or to go for a long walk.


“In general,” lead author Dr. Wen-Bin Chiou of National Sun Yat-Sen University told Metro in an email, “people may simultaneously seek to maintain good physical health and to pursue the hedonic goal of leading a pleasurable life. But after achieving ostensible progress toward the health goal by taking dietary supplements, they may feel entitled to reduce their efforts in this regard and pursue pleasurable activities.”


Taking a multivitamin seems to be connected with the notion of invulnerability and indulgence.


The phenomenon works in reverse as well. “On the other hand,’ he notes, “engagement in activities that pose health risks tends to motivate individuals to engage in acts that will restore health.” An example of this is over-eating and then taking a diet pill.


Chiou warns that people who take vitamin supplements need to be aware of the vicious cycle of doing something they perceive as healthy followed by an act of self-indulgence.


The study is to be published soon in the journal Psychological Science.

 
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