Researchers show how motivation boosts nutrition and healthy diet

A new study by the University of East Anglia (UEA) has shed new light on why people with a positive attitude are at an increased chance of consuming a healthier diet.

“Few studies have examined the antecedents of nutrition involvement,” the findings read. “Similarly, conflicting results have been recorded on the relationship between nutrition involvement and knowledge, knowledge and dietary behaviors, and nutrition involvement and dietary behaviors.”

“This paper addresses these research gaps by exploring the role of regulatory focus as an antecedent of nutrition involvement. It also examines the effect of nutrition involvement on nutrition knowledge and the effects of both involvement and knowledge on diet adjustment.”

For the study, researchers in Taiwan analyzed the nutrition involvement and diet adjustment of 1,125 consumers. They examined the significance of the regulatory focus theory regarding consumers’ involvement in nutrition, the outcome of nutrition involvement on consumers’ knowledge of nutrition and dietary habits.

“Regulatory focus suggests that there are fundamental motivational differences among people, with two aspects – promotion and prevention – guiding behaviour. Individuals with a promotion focus are concerned with pursuing positive outcomes, for example engaging in healthy behaviours, while those with a prevention focus will seek to prevent negative consequences, for example by avoiding unhealthy behaviours,” UEA researchers stated.

The findings showed that having a promotion focus results in consumer’s involvement in nutrition, which subsequently turns to nutrition knowledge and diet adjustment.

“Having a promotion focus leads to consumer’s involvement in nutrition, which in turn leads to nutrition knowledge and diet adjustment following advice, for example from media, doctors, family members or friends. Having a prevention focus had no effect on nutrition involvement.”

The findings also highlighted that, among high-income consumers, the outcome of promotion focus on nutritional involvement was higher. The results, researchers say, give insight into nutrition-related consumer behavior and other health risks.

“Consumer decisions regarding eating behaviours and nutrition can lead to consequences such as illness and obesity that have direct public health policy implications. Obesity is preventable and increasing consumer involvement in nutrition can help achieve this,” said Kishore Pillai, the study’s lead author.

“Consumers are likely to receive advice regarding nutrition from multiple sources in their day-to-day lives. Public agencies can encourage promotional focus and in turn involvement in nutrition through appropriate communication. But, as the results of this study indicate, the effectiveness of this intervention will vary between high and low-income groups and is likely to vary between males and females.”

The findings were published in the journal Appetite.