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Nudge-it Health Study, Second wave

Nudge-it scientists are currently engaged in the second part of an ambitious study into the understanding the process of taste formation early on in childhood (and particularly the process of formation of preferences for obesogenic foods) and understanding the effects of regular food intake on total calorie intake and health. 

198 low income families with children between the age of 2 and 6 are taking part.  A third of the families will receive groceries to prepare 5 meals a week for 12 weeks. The meals have been designed by a nutritionist and are designed to expose children to a wide variety of tastes. A second third of families will be asked to stick to regular meal times and avoid snacking between meals. Finally, a third of families will be in the control group and will be monitored at the same time as all the others. 

Families will be followed for 3 years. We will collect detailed information on parents and children's dietary habits and preferences, body measurements and personality traits. 

The first wave of the study was conducted in Edinburgh between February and June 2015. Initial results for both studies should be available in early 2016. 

further information on the study


Nudge-it paper attracts worldwide press coverage

A recent scientific publication by Nudge-it scientists from the University of Zurich has attracted worldwide media attention.  The article, published in Neuron focusses on the link between stress and food choice.  News articles were published in the L.A.Times, the New York Times, El Mundo in Spain, Corriere della Srea in Italy, as well as on SRF radio news in Switzerland, and france 5 televsion to name but a few!

Silvia Maier from Prof Todd Hare's lab at the Dept of Economics writes

"In our study, we show that the interplay between several neural pathways is important to explain the effects of stress on self-control in food choice: Stress was not simply “shutting down” cognitive control or “boosting” reward seeking, but rather affected behavior from both directions independently. We found that the psychological and biological aspects of stress affected different pathways in the brain. The psychological perception of feeling stressed was associated with less effective coupling between two prefrontal brain regions that support considering long-term goals (such as healthy eating). At the same time, the endocrine response to the stress treatment affected communication between prefrontal and subcortical regions that consider the taste value of food options.

Although it is tempting to tell the simple story that stress is turning up the dial on signals about taste and turning down the signal on health goals in the brain the mechanism is not as simple as an “on / off “ switch. Stressed individuals in our study still cared about eating healthy, they just could not resist if we presented them with a strong temptation (say, their favorite chocolate bar) that was much tastier, but less healthy than the alternative. There is much left to explore when it comes to explaining how any given individual will change their eating behavior in response to stress, as we found a good deal of variation in the way stress affected our participants and their subsequent choices. One important open question is to determine why and how some individuals are more resistant to the influences of stress on decision-making."

read the full article

Report of the Third Nudge-it Meeting

7th – 9th June 2015, Tübingen, Germany

tuebingen meeting 1 ed

As if winter was never there, the Nudge-it researchers got a warm welcome from the southern German summer. With temperatures rising to 30 degrees Celsius, Bebenhausen, a small town in the Bundesland of Baden-Württemberg, gave us a wonderful introduction of the history of this south-western area of Germany: The rich and wealthy lives of the Kings and Queens of Baden-Württemberg, a tour through the lives of the labour and choir monks, and finishing off with some typical German meat, asparagus, wine and beer while the discussion on the different projects really came alive.



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President Obama endorses "Nudging" as a tool for change


“Adopting the insights of behavioural science will help bring our government into the 21st century in a wide range of ways - from delivering services more efficiently and effectively; to accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy; to helping workers find better jobs, gain access to educational opportunity, and lead longer, healthier lives."

— President Barack Obama

Today the White House will announce new actions to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Federal programs by leveraging research insights about how people participate in, engage with, and respond to programs. Announcements include: an Executive Order, new guidance to Federal agencies to make government forms simpler and easier, and a report from the Social and Behavioural Sciences Team.

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