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Environmental determinants of healthy eating: in need of theory and evidence.

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Proceedings of The Nutrition Society
1475-2719
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Publication Date
Volume
67
Issue
3
Pages
307–316
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1017/S0029665108008616
PMID: 18700052
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

In order to promote healthful nutrition, insight is needed into the determinants of nutrition behaviours. Behavioural determinant research and behavioural nutrition interventions have focused mostly on individual-level motivational factors. It has been argued that the individual's socio-cultural and physical environments may be the main determinants of nutrition behaviours. However, the theoretical basis and empirical evidence for environmental determinants of nutrition behaviours are not strong. The present paper is a narrative review informed by a series of systematic reviews and recent original studies on associations between environmental factors and nutrition behaviours to provide an overview and discussion of the evidence for environmental correlates and predictors of nutrition behaviour. Although the number of studies on potential environmental determinants of nutrition behaviours has increased steeply over the last decades, they include only a few well-designed studies with validated measures and guided by sound theoretical frameworks. The preliminary evidence from the available systematic reviews indicates that socio-cultural environmental factors defining what is socially acceptable, desirable and appropriate to eat may be more important for healthful eating than physical environments that define the availability and accessibility of foods. It is concluded that there is a lack of well-designed studies on environmental determinants of healthful eating behaviours. Preliminary evidence indicates that social environmental factors may be more important than physical environmental factors for healthful eating. Better-designed studies are needed to further build evidence-based theory on environmental determinants to guide the development of interventions to promote healthful eating.

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