Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How We Think and Do Not Think About Food: Behavioral & Cognitive Nutrition

In an effort to understand the complexity of nutrition, eating behaviors and the role of food in society it is important to refer to information from various fields- exercise science, nutrition, biology, chemistry, psychology, marketing, economics, sociology, cognitive science and so on. In the past I have written extensively about nutrition, and most of my references have been to the fields of exercise science, nutrition, chemistry, and biology. In the new book I am co-authoring -How We Think and Do Not Think About Food: Behavioral and Cognitive Nutrition(tentative title)- in addition to referencing info from the fields of exercise science, nutrition, chemistry and biology, research from the fields mentioned in the opening sentence will be discussed.

How We Think and Do Not Think About Food- will provide very brief to no coverage of the following:

The calorie theory
Macronutrient composition
High Glycemic vs Low Glycemic Diets
Organic vs conventional foods (however this subject will be discussed as it relates to ideational motives)
Low carb diet myths
High carb myths
Meal frequency
and many many other myths that i have already addressed in Knowledge and Nonsense

Excerpts from How We Think and Do Not Think About Food

Suppositions that a change in genetics is responsible for the increase in obesity over the past three decades are unlikely due to the lack of evidence of mutations over this short period of time. However, what has changed drastically, is the environment in which we now live (Cohen, 2008).

Food advertising is not new, but greater sophistication in marketing—including the development of branding, expanded use of vending machines and other mechanisms for self-service, technologies like eye movement tracking, and the application of social psychology- are all widely used to increase impulse buying and sales of high calorie indulging foods. Eating behaviors are often made unconsciously.

Food variety, obtained by adding condiments can increase food intake in the short term. The mechanism by which food consumption is increased after the addition of condiments is at least partly related to the attenuation of sensory-satiety for a given food (Brondel et al., 2009). Sensory specific satiety- decrease in pleasure when consuming a specific food, and a consequent renewal in pleasure when consuming a different food or flavor. Senses become sated if continually exposed to the same stimulus. As you eat more of a specific food it becomes less pleasant. The more dissimilar the food's sensory characteristics (taste, flavor, color, texture, shape, temperature) the longer it will take to achieve sensory specific satiety.

Having a variety of foods presented in succession during a meal enhances intake, and the more different the foods are the greater the enhancement is likely to be (Rolls, 1981). However, if the sensory characteristics of a variety of foods presented in a meal are too similar increased consumption may not occur.

Food is often consumed when not hungry. When and how often we eat is determined by a myriad of factors.

Gustation- sense of taste

The four basic tastes are salty, sour, bitter and sweet (Wolfe et al., 2006). However, some sources list a fifth basic taste- Unami (Beauchamp & Mennella, 2009).

'components of flavor, detected by the olfactory system, are strongly influenced by early exposure and learning beginning in utero and continuing during early milk (breast milk or formula) feedings. These experiences set the stage for later food choices and are important in establishing life-long food habits', (Beauchamp & Mennella, 2009). The foods we like are shaped by learning and innate factors.

The pleasure or displeasure associated with tastes is seen in infants. With no experience, infants like sweet and dislike bitter and sour. Some of the most impressive work concerning hardwired taste preferences comes from Jacob Steiner (Steiner, 1973)

A chemist named A.L. Fox discovered we do not all experience taste in the same manner. While synthesizing the compound phenylthiocarbamide some of it spilled and flew into the air. One of Fox's colleagues noticed a bitter taste while Fox tasted nothing. With further testing some of Fox's other colleagues did not taste the compound, but most tasted it as bitter (Fox, 1931).

Flavor is a combination of true taste and smell. Flavor and taste are not synonymous.

Natural preferences for sweet-tasting compounds changes developmentally (infants and children have higher preferences than adults) and can be modified by experience (Cowart et al., 2004). Bitter tasting substances are innately disliked probably because most bitter compounds are toxic- plants evolved systems to protect themselves from being eaten and plant-eating organisms evolved sensory systems to avoid being poisoned (Glendinning, 1994 & Beauchamp, 2009).

Marketers have capitalized on the tendency of humans to be physical misers (put out minimal physical energy) by developing products that make eating quick and easy, including packaging that allows people to eat on the run, eat in their cars, eat fast, etc (Morrison, 2007)

Research has shown that images, sounds, smells, and lighting, affect eating behaviors.

Are fast food restaurants conspiring to make society obese? No. They are conspiring to sale food and make huge profits. If humans preferred eating fruits and vegetables to eating burgers and fries fast food restaurants will sale fruits and vegetables.

Environmental cues to aid in eating less

Use smaller plates and dishes. Use tall skinny glasses.

Eat at the table, and avoid eating in the TV room

Minimize eating from a package

Keep high calorie tempting food out of sight. Don't leave them on the counter in plain view

Avoid eating too many different foods in one meal. If you like to include variety in meals include a variety of nutrient dense, low cal foods that are similar in sensory characteristics

Those are just a few of the many topics that will be explored. Stay tuned for further updates. Any other suggestions for a book title are appreciated.