What determines and influences our eating habits is the focus of a new study by Aberdeen nutritional scientists.
The food we choose to eat, and how much of it, is an underlying factor in diseases including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Volunteers are being sought to take part in the research which it’s hoped will enhance understanding of how healthier diets can be encouraged.
Professor Julian Mercer from the University’s Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health said: “We know that the food and drink we choose to consume is linked to incidences of what we term as non-communicable diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“But what we do not understand entirely is what influences people to choose to eat certain foods over others, and this is what our study will address.
“We want to analyse whether actually all people are the same and that our food habits are just that – habitual choices that we make out of routine.
“Or are there actually innate differences in our individual physiological, metabolic and psychological make-up that prompt us to select certain foods.
“If the latter is the case, then we can begin to categorise people based on these factors, and formulate the best approaches to prompting dietary change.
Volunteers – who should be healthy, non-smokers between the ages of 20 and 70 - will be asked to complete a 7 day food diary and questionnaires relating to their eating behaviour, preferences and attitude towards food.
Professor Mercer continued: “Importantly we’re not asking anyone to change what they eat. Volunteers who choose to take part in the research would eat their normal diet, and we’d simply ask for them to record information on the food choices as both meals and snacks, and as foods and drinks, that they make that week.
“We will provide feedback to volunteers on their dietary habits.”
Volunteers will also be invited to take part in a number of simple computer and taste tests to examine food preferences and sensitivities to different tastes.
Professor Mercer said: “Changing eating behaviours and encouraging people to adopt healthier eating patterns could be an important first step in tackling diseases such as obesity.
“Understanding the factors that are behind the food choices people make will inform us as to how we can best develop strategies to encourage changes in dietary behaviour in the future.”
Volunteers interested in taking part in the study should contact Jackie Duncan on 01224 438795 or email Jacqueline.Duncan@abdn.ac.uk .
The study is funded by the Scottish Government.