Skill set key to sticking to a healthy diet
Executive functions are psychological skills we use to achieve goals – for example planning actions in advance, solving problems and ignoring distractions. People with less efficient 'executive functions' are less able to adhere to healthy diet intentions. Scientists behind the research are using the information to develop interventions to help people eat as they intend.
Executive function can be tested with standardised psychological tests. Characteristics of a person with less efficient executive function include:
- A lesser ability to filter information to distinguish and prioritise important information from less important information
- Less efficient prospective memory – reduced ability to remember to perform a planned action or intention at the appropriate time – for example remembering to post a letter
- A lesser ability to think flexibly – to rapidly weight up options and make a new decision if your initial plan has fallen through
- A lesser ability to plan actions in advance
- More easily distractible
"A person with a less efficient executive function is less likely to resist temptation and stick with what they had planned to eat on any given day, than someone with more efficient executive function."
The tests University of Aberdeen scientists have conducted which have shown this link include:
- Asking participants (who had undergone standardised psychology testing to establish their executive function) to carry an electronic diary that bleeped at periods throughout the day prompting them to make a note of what they had eaten. Participants with less efficient executive function ate less fruit and vegetables than intended and more high calorie snacks than intended over a 3 day period than those with more efficient executive function.
- Asking participants who were currently dieting (again after executive function testing) to take part in what they believed to be a consumer rating study on fair trade products.
Dr Allan continued: "We are now at the point of developing interventions to help people with less efficient executive function stick to their healthy dietary intentions.
"The first option we are looking at has been tested in a recent study. People with less efficient executive function may be more likely to give in to temptation at the last moment before they make their decision – so if they are standing queuing to order food in a coffee shop they may be more likely to make a 'wrong decision' on what to order at the moment before they get to the till.
"We developed signage to sit at counter/eye level which shows all of the food options available ranked in a spectrum – lowest calories on the left through to highest calories on the right."
Over a 12 week period this was displayed periodically in two coffee shops in Aberdeen. Findings showed that in the weeks where the signs were displayed, sales of lower calorie foods went up and sales of higher calorie foods went down. In addition, customers with less efficient executive function were more likely than others to reduce the calorie content of their purchases after seeing the signs.
This showed that the signage was supporting people to make healthier choices the theory being that the signs helped those with less efficient executive function by providing:
- A visual prompt – reducing the need for them to remember to make the correct dietary choice
- A clear solution to help meet their goal, reducing the need for advance planning
- A concise summary of the information they require to aid their decision making process, reducing the need for flexible evaluation of options
- A visual summary of possible food choices that highlighted low calorie options and made high calorie options easier to ignore
"We've also shown that it is possible to change our environment in a way that makes it easier for people to stick to their diets."
Provided by University of Aberdeen
- Your dinner date could make you put on weight Sep 04, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Calorie density key to losing weight Jun 08, 2007 | not rated yet | 0
- Protein linked to problems with executive thinking skills Mar 29, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Friends with cognitive benefits: Mental function improves after certain kinds of socializing Oct 27, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Medical myth: Cutting carbs is the best way to lose weight Aug 27, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
Calorie information in fast food restaurants used by 40 percent of 9-18 year olds when making food choices
A new study published online today (Thursday) in the Journal of Public Health has found that of young people who visited fast food or chain restaurants in the U.S. in 2010, girls and youth who were obese were more likely ...
Health 9 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(HealthDay)—Implementation of systematic monitoring for medication adherence will allow for identification of barriers to adherence and tailoring of interventions, according to a viewpoint piece published ...
Health 11 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(AP)—The Obama administration says more doctors and hospitals are embracing technology as adoption of computerized medical records reaches a "tipping point" in America.
Health 12 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Johns Hopkins researchers report that hospitals may be reaping enormous income for patients whose hospital stays are complicated by preventable bloodstream infections contracted in their intensive care units.
Health 13 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
A University of Illinois researcher says that the cornerstone of our efforts to alleviate food insecurity should be to encourage more people to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) "because ...
Health 13 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Swiss scientists reveal the mechanism responsible for aging hidden deep within mitochondria—and dramatically slow it down in worms by administering antibiotics to the young.
15 hours ago | 4.9 / 5 (7) | 0 |
Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London have led the largest sequencing study of human disease to date, investigating the genetic basis of six autoimmune diseases.
15 hours ago | 4.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Until now, little was scientifically known about the human potential to cultivate compassion—the emotional state of caring for people who are suffering in a way that motivates altruistic behavior.
12 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 2 |
Existing research shows that bicyclists who wear helmets have an 88 percent lower risk of brain injury, but researchers at Boston Children's Hospital found that simply having bicycle helmet laws in place showed a 20 percent ...
4 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(HealthDay)—Migraines and depression can each cause a great deal of suffering, but new research indicates the combination of the two may be linked to something else entirely—a smaller brain.
12 hours ago | 4 / 5 (2) | 0 |
A new approach for immunizing against influenza elicited a more potent immune response and broader protection than the currently licensed seasonal influenza vaccines when tested in mice and ferrets. The vaccine ...
13 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |