Essay on Doctor: Nutrition and Food Choices

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Symposium: Sugar and Fat—From Genes to Culture
Pricing Effects on Food Choices1,2
Simone A. French3
Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55454-1015



food choice

nutrition intervention

The prevalence of obesity and overweight has increased dramatically over the past two decades (1– 4). The current obesity epidemic is caused by an environment that promotes excessive food intake and discourages physical activity (5,6).
Environmental influences on eating behavior include the changing nature of the food supply, increased reliance on foods away from home, food advertising, marketing and promotion and food pricing (5). The role of fats and sugar in the food supply and dietary intake trends is discussed elsewhere (7).
The present report focuses on food marketing practices and pricing strategies.

eating behavior

they are eaten. Foods at home are those purchased at a retail store, a grocery store, a convenience store or a supermarket and prepared for home consumption (8). Foods away from home include those obtained from fast food establishments, schools, restaurants, other public places and vending machines. Away from home foods are typically ready-to-eat and consumed “as is,” and the consumer has less control over portion size and nutritional content (8).
It is well documented that portion sizes for foods purchased at fast food places and restaurants have increased sharply over the past two decades (9). Prepackaged foods purchased in grocery and convenience stores are also being marketed in larger sizes (5,10). For example, in the 1950s, Coca-Cola was marketed in 6.5-oz single-serving bottles. The 12-oz can became the single-serving soft drink size in the 1970s. In 2000 the 20-oz bottle was the typical single-serving size, a 250% increase from the 1950s. Fast food restaurants market supersized sandwiches such as the Big Mac (216 g; 570 kcal); supersized French fries (198 g; 610 kcal) and 42-oz soft drinks
(11). Candy bars and potato chips that used to be prepackaged in 1-oz servings are now marketed in 2- to 3-oz single-serving packages (10). Bagels and muffins that used to be 2 to 3 oz are now typically 4 to 7 oz (10).
Larger packages and larger serving sizes may encourage greater consumption at any one meal or eating episode through a variety of physiological or cognitive mechanisms
(12). People may underestimate their intake as they purchase larger packages or are offered larger servings at restaurants.
Experimental research shows that larger packages of familiar

Foods away from home
Foods away from home captured 40% of total food spending in 1995 (8). “Home” and “away from home” foods are defined based on where the foods are obtained, as opposed to where

Presented as part of the symposium “Sugar and Fat—From Genes to
Culture,” given at the Experimental Biology ’02 meeting in New Orleans, LA, April
23, 2002. This symposium was sponsored by the American Society for Nutritional
Sciences and was supported in part by educational grants from ILSI North
America and ILSI Research Foundation. Guest editors for this symposium publication were Adam Drewnowski, Center for Public Health Nutrition, University of
Washington, Seattle, WA, and Allen Levine, Minnesota Obesity Center, Minneapolis VA Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN.
This research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of
Health R01 HL56577 with supplemental funding from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
To whom correspondence should be addressed.

0022-3166/03 $3.00 © 2003 American Society for Nutritional Sciences.


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ABSTRACT Individual dietary choices are primarily influenced by such considerations as taste, cost, convenience and nutritional value of foods. The current