Factors affecting Eating Behaviour

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Factors affecting attitudes to food and food behaviour
AO1: AO2/Synopsis (MAID):
Brain monitors nutritional status of the body Criticisms of the serotonin and caffeine
o Mediated by social and psychology hypotheses
Serotonin and caffeine hypotheses Behaviourist claims that food behaviour is
Food neophobia linked to the environment ­ breastfeeding
o Link to operant conditioning
Cultural influences Ethnocentricism in the research
Individual diffs
Conclusion: Both physical and psychological
factors considered
Food is an integral part of human life. A number of physiological factors influence food choice. The
brain monitors the body's nutritional status and drives and directs eating behaviour. However, the
effects of these physiological processes are mediated by psychological and social processes. Ogden
(2003) claims that food choice "takes place within a network of social meanings" and so the culture in
which we live in heavily influences our food choice. Attitudes to food are shaped from an early age
and are strongly influenced by environmental pressures. The place of food in our value rankings is
given primarily due to cultural and economic levels of society in which we live. We can learn about the
relation of a particular culture to food and eating by studying menus, method of eating and
preparation of food. In addition, it is claimed that aversions are the basis of attitude to food. Food
neophobia is innate and helps individuals avoid food that have the potential to harm or even kill them.
Such characteristics are prominent in young babies and children and ways parents can help the child
overcome the fear of food is by exposing them to it and demonstrating that the particular food is not
harmful to them. Food is said to also influence our mood, and we eat foods according to our current
mood state. Food containing carbohydrates are said to contain tryptophan, which is the essential
building block of serotonin. Therefore, foods such as chocolate which are rich in carbohydrates
alleviate moods and are typical types of food people enjoy when they are feeling low. Smith et al
(2003) also found that caffeine can improve mood and increase alertness, memory and other
cognitive abilities. These enhancements were due to the caffeine's ability to maintain noradrenaline
which is widely associated with the `fight or flight' response.
Although the serotonin hypothesis works well in a laboratory environment, when you are looking at
the carbohydrates in their raw form, it does not seem to work in the digestive system. The sticking
point is protein. We tend not to eat food stuffs in isolation. Chocolate is likely to be entering our
system at the same time as other food. For example, you may have just eaten a protein filled meal
and had some chocolate for dessert. It is said that even tiny amounts of protein in the system will
prevent the tryptophan effects on our body and so it is unclear on the exact role of food enhancing
our moods. In relation to the caffeine hypothesis, as noradrenaline is one of the amines (like
serotonin) responsible for our mood, it may also explain why people feel tired when they withdraw
from caffeine. They are reducing the stimulating and arousal qualities of noradrenaline. Therefore, it
may be argued that these effects are not necessarily caffeine causing improvements in mood but
merely reversing the harm done when caffeine was not present.
Behaviourists would claim that knowledge of food behaviour and mechanisms of the control of food
intake are very useful in further exploring the human body and its interaction with the environment.
When looking at breastfeeding, such psychologists would argue that it is not only physiological
activity to feed a child, it is accompanied by strong feelings that help a child gain experience with the
outside world and begins to communicate with others. Through the senses, such as taste and sight,

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If during this time there is, according to this theory, for example
shouting, the baby associates feeding with undesirable outcomes and may develop eating disorders
in later life. However, with this theory comes determinism in that it suggests that whatever we
experience as a young child, in what we cannot control, it will directly impact our feeding behaviour in
later life.…read more


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