The Chronicle

Study on unhealthy choices

- IAN ROYALL

A MELBOURNE research project hopes to find out why we make unhealthy eating choices by examining how consuming ultra-processed foods and sugary drinks influence our decision-making.

Professor Antonio VerdejoGar­cia, of the Monash University Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, said he hoped the research would help people choose healthier foods.

“We want to create a better understand­ing about why people, particular­ly those with obesity, make decisions about food that fuel unhealthy eating habits,” he said.

The five-year project will look at ways to intervene in those instant responses to food, tackling obesity.

“Two in three Australian­s are overweight or obese and over-consumptio­n of energydens­e foods, such as pies or burgers, and sugary drinks is the main contributo­r to the obesity epidemic,” he said.

“Evidence so far seems to point to energy density (of food) being an important hook for our reward systems. And our own research is showing that people with obesity tend to have an increased reactivity of the reward system when they are considerin­g food choices, and probably that is fuelling some of the unhealthy eating habits.’’

The study is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council grant.

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