Food habits are influenced by childhood experience - but changing circumstance also key

Food habits are influenced by childhood experience - but changing circumstance also key

There is a widespread perception that the eating habits we acquire during childhood remain with us through adulthood and are resistant to change. However, studies reveal that they can change.

Dr John McKenzie and Dr David Watts, researchers from the University of Aberdeen’s Rowett Institute, explored this contradiction and why these changes might occur in a qualitative study which was recently published in Food, Culture & Society.

Results indicated that eating patterns acquired in childhood can shape behaviours throughout life and are likely to be resistant to attempts by others to change them. However, eating patterns may be more likely to change if the impetus originates within the individual. Revisions are more likely to be informed by dietary guidelines when individuals come to view their eating habits as problematic. 

Dr McKenzie explained: “Our findings, based on one to one interviews with volunteers, provide further insight into the contradictory views we explore and help to explain why changes in eating patterns occur, and when these changes are more likely to be informed by dietary guidelines.”

Dr Watts added: “The results of this study will inform thinking about how to improve the healthiness of people’s diets by targeting individuals at certain stages of their life, when they may be more open to the suggestion of changing their eating habits.”

The research was funded by the Scottish Government through its 2011-16 Strategic Research Programme.

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