Nutritional Nudges – the Why?

When thinking about nutrition the default tends to be the relationship between nutrition and weight loss – it is typically a desire or motivation to eat less, which materializes through a diet routine. The motivation for, and benefits from, a ‘better’ diet is therefore associated with weight loss, rather than the consequences of a healthy daily dietary routine itself.

This seems rational – eat better & lose weight. It then follows that the major irrational part of this post is the fact that the quality of our diets, irrespective of the impact of weight, is the biggest contributor to early death and disease in developed countries … and it always surprise audiences when I mention this to them.

The science behind this is well established and summarized through the work of IHME, based out of the University of Washington.  Below is a summary of the risk factors driving death and disease in the US, as of 2015, which shows dietary risk at the top.

screenshot-2 Source: IHME US 2015 Risk Factors and associated Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs)

The chart shows weight separately as #3: High body-mass index, hence in my posts I’ll deliberately focus on nutrition separately from weight-loss (obesity). Appropriate nutrition for weight-loss in important, but only applies to a segment of the population.

Good nutritional habits and programs to promote and support those habits apply to the full population irrespective of weight, as the benefits are universal.  Similar to physical activity/ exercise, what we eat and how we fuel our bodies has a direct impact on our energy levels, health and vitality. However, daily nutritional habits seem more resistant to change than physical activity, and the default of behavior change programs is often to first focus and show progress with physical activity.

Look for more information on structures and behavioral economic techniques that have shown success in changing dietary habits at scale in future posts.  In the meantime, here is a good clip on why the simple placement or grouping of food can make a difference:  Nutrition and Health Strategy “Nudges” | Feeding America

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