Research grant to investigate healthy eating behaviour in adolescents
Dr Hannah Ensaff, Research Fellow inchildhood obesity and child nutrition from the University's Faculty of Health& Social Sciences, has secured an Alpro Foundation research grant for an18-month project to nudge adolescents towards plant-based food choices.
The research will investigate theattitudes and perceptions of young people towards plant-based diets as well asassessing the impact of behavioural nudge tactics on students' food choices.Collaborating with Professor Pinki Sahota at Leeds Met and Anne Cowling Health& Wellbeing Service Lead at Leeds City Council, Dr Ensaff's research willinvolve the design, implementation and evaluation of 'nudges' towardsplant-based eating within a secondary school dining environment.
Dr Ensaff explains: "Across Europe,there are rising levels of obesity among adolescents, with up to with up to 32%and 37% of 15-year-old boys and girls respectively, being overweight or obese. Thisincreases with age, such that the majority (52%) of European adults areoverweight or obese. Obesity in the United Kingdom has almost doubled inthe last 20 years, and currently stands at the second highest in Europe at26.1%.
"Young people's diets can be high insaturated fat and sugar, along with low fruit and vegetable consumption. Themajority of adolescents do not meet dietary recommendations for fruit andvegetables; 64% and 63% of British 15 year olds do not eat fruit and vegetablesdaily.These poor choices, typified by low intake of plant-based foods,are mirrored in schools, where students display a low preference for nutrientrich meals.
"A diet replete with fruit andvegetables can protect against certain chronic diseases. A high proportion ofplant-based food during adolescence is not only an important indicator of dietquality, but can also promote healthy food choice behaviour later on inadulthood."
The 'nudges' implemented will bedesigned based on extensive data collected from young people in their schoolenvironment, as well as relevant background literature. The school diningenvironment provides a sound setting for Dr Ensaff's research, both in terms ofinstigating the nudges and determining their effectiveness. As well as uncovering insights into youngpeople's attitudes and perceptions towards plant-based diets, it is hoped thatthe research will improve the accessibility, presentation and prevalence ofplant-based food items in order to nudge young people's food choice. In thisway, adolescents' diets can be shifted towards a higher proportion ofplant-based food choices.
The Alpro Foundation is anindependent non-profit organisation, which was founded in 1996 - an initiativeofAlpro.Recognising the increasing importance of a healthy lifestyle for long termhealth benefits, Alpro contributes to health in marketing soya food productsthat fit with a healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle.
The objective of the Alprofoundation is to support and promote scientific knowledge and research in thefield of nutrition and health with a focus on plant-based nutrition andsustainability. The foundation aims tohelp increase the awareness and knowledge about the impact of 'nutrition onhuman health' amongst health professionals and the general public. www.alprofoundation.org