Understanding and Combatting the Effects of Food Variety in the "Hypermodern" Food Environment.

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: College of Human and Health Sciences

Abstract

The project will develop and evaluate social-psychological interventions to combat the health effects of consuming highly varied food products. Constrasting the empirical approach with public health guidelines on, for instance, portion size, the project will identify ways in which food variety interacts with food related cognitions, food intake and body weight. Quantitative analyses will be supported by secondary data linkages with large datasets such as the UK Biobank to identify factors associated with dietary variety and health outcomes of the population. Consistent with contemporary open science initiatives for the social sciences, all studies will be pre-registered and resulting data shared.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1947139 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021 Rochelle Embling
 
Description At the current stage of my PhD, I have completed two qualitative research studies on the consumer understanding of 'food variety'. The term 'food variety' is often present in guidelines around the world. Eating a variety of foods is important to help individuals maintain a high quality, nutritious diet. Despite this, little is known about the consumer understanding of the term (I.e. what makes foods 'different', the different contexts in which we can have a variety of foods). It has also been suggested that consumers may find it difficult to understand some specialised terms used within dietary guidelines, including 'variety or balance'.

As such, this qualitative research has directly explored the consumer understanding of the term 'food variety' for the first time. Across both studies, my results show that individuals often refer to different forms of food variety when explaining their preferences and expectations for a meal or food. This means that individuals would discuss having foods that differ in their sensory characteristics (e.g. flavour, texture, colour) within a single course of a meal, across multiple courses of a meal, across meals in a single or multiple days, and as part of their overall diet. This reflects the definition of food variety that is used in the research literature. However, when asked to define what 'food variety' means, individuals tended to only talk about having different foods across the whole diet (e.g. generally eating foods from different food groups).

Therefore, my results emphasise the importance of educating consumers about the topic of food variety to improve their understanding of the term. This could have future implications for research and policy, as improving the consumer understanding of variety has the potential to increase the efficacy of dietary guidelines and strategies that remain focussed on variety, particularly those that ask consumers to directly manage their own food intake.

By conducting this research, I have gained further experience of using qualitative methods to collect data (both focus groups and an online survey). I have also learned a new method to analyse qualitative data (directed qualitative content analysis). Overall, conducting this research has greatly improved my skills as a qualitative researcher.
Exploitation Route To increase academic impact and facilitate future research on this topic, a paper reporting on the results of both qualitative studies is currently under review for open-access publication in a high impact journal. Results have also been presented at conferences both within and outside of the University; I delivered a talk at the College of Human and Health Sciences PGR conference 2019, and I have presented a poster at the British Food and Drinking Group Annual Meeting 2019. To date, all research projects conducted as part of my PhD has been preregistered, and project resources are available, via the Open Science Framework (OSF) to encourage knowledge exchange.

I have participated in public engagement activities with the aim of educating consumers about the potential impact of food variety on health, providing information about how we can use food variety to manage our intake of healthy and unhealthy foods. To date, activities include Pint of Science 2019 and Swansea Science Festival 2018 and 2019. I have also worked with The Brilliant Club to design a course on the topic of my PhD research that was delivered to KS4 pupils.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Healthcare

 
Description UK Biobank - secondary data analysis 
Organisation UK Biobank
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Conducting data analysis on population data, exploring the association between dietary variety and weight. This project has potential implications for health. Results of the project will be published in a peer-reviewed journal, with myself as first author.
Collaborator Contribution Provided access to large population data set for secondary data analysis. As this research forms part of my PhD research, the UK Biobank granted access to the data for a reduced fee.
Impact Results of the project will be published in a peer-reviewed journal, with myself as first author - the project is expected to be complete in 2021.
Start Year 2019
 
Description BFDG (BRITISH FEEDING AND DRINKING GROUP) ANNUAL MEETING 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Attended the BFDG (BRITISH FEEDING AND DRINKING GROUP) Annual meeting. This was attended by leading researchers in the field of eating behaviour, appetite, and nutrition research. Presented a poster presentation that sparked questions/discussion with researchers and fellow postgraduate students Afterwards, it allowed me to develop my own research ideas with the insight gained from others.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://snacswansea.wordpress.com/events/
 
Description Pint of science 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Delivered a talk about the effects of food variety on our eating behaviour with Dr. Laura Wilkinson at Pint of Science, Swansea. This sparked questions/discussions from the audience afterwards, and this seemed to encourage increased interest in eating behaviour research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://snacswansea.wordpress.com/events/
 
Description Postgraduate Research Conference, College of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presented findings from study (PhD research) to fellow postgraduate students and staff member from the College of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University. This encourages questions and discussion afterwards. This prompted me to consider limitations/methodological considerations for future research as part of my studies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description STUDY AND CULTURE TOUR - college visit, Swansea University 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact International students attended for a university visit. The research group provided demonstrations of effects on eating behaviour, including the 'variety effect' (focus of my Phd research). This prompted questions/discussions afterwards, and the students provided positive feedback about the subject after their visit. The college requested further participation at future visits.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
URL https://snacswansea.wordpress.com/events/
 
Description Swansea Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Provided demonstrations of effects on eating behaviour, including the 'variety effect' (focus of my PhD research), which prompted questions and discussions with families attending the event. This included providing advice to parents about how to use variety (and other factors) to encourage healthy eating.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://snacswansea.wordpress.com/events/