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Light could impact healthy diet choices

Light could impact healthy diet choices
28th May 2016

Dieticians know that a healthy diet can play a key role in elderly care, not only is it though to reduce the risk of neurological conditions like dementia, but it can also impact mental health.

With elderly patients, it can be difficult to get them to eat a balanced and nutrition-rich diet, especially if they have other health problems to consider. However, a new study has suggested that the environment - and more specifically the light - in which they eat could influence their food choices.

New research, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, found that people who ate in well-lit rooms were between 16 and 24 per cent more likely to order healthy dishes, compared to those who dined in badly lit areas.

In addition, the researchers suggested that this could be down to the alertness of people when they are eating in different lights.

"We feel more alert in brighter rooms and therefore tend to make more healthful, forward-thinking decisions," explained lead author Dipayan Biswas, PhD, University of South Florida.

To arrive at their findings, the team surveyed 160 people who had dined at restaurants at one of four chain locations. Half of these ate in brighter rooms and were found to be more likely to order healthier dishes like grilled fish, vegetables or poultry over relatively unhealthy items on the menu like fried food or dessert.

According to the sales records, diners who ate in well-lit rooms ordered 39 per cent fewer calories than those placed in darker areas.

This study could influence professionals who work in nutrition, allowing them to consider the environment in which people eat and how this may influence their food choices.

Follow-up studies also found that an increased alertness among diners could be triggered by a caffeine placebo or by simply giving a prompt to be alert. When this was factored in, those in dimly lit rooms were just as likely as their peers in brightly lit rooms to make healthier food choices.

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