Given the current state of obesity rates in the U.S., researchers and practitioners are still searching for viable solutions to help individuals lose weight. Recently, researchers at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab1 undertook a study to examine a possible new approach: food adventurousness. The primary purpose was to identify how food neophilia – having an adventurous eating approach for new or different foods (literally, “love of the new”) – may relate to individuals’ body mass index (BMI). Participants included a group of 501 young non-vegetarian women, with an average age of 27 and an average BMI=25.96 (overweight is a BMI ≥25.00 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Participants answered questions about how many foods unfamiliar to many Americans they had tried, such as seitan, beef tongue, polenta, and bean sprouts. They were also asked about weight satisfaction, perceptions of novel foods, lifestyle and psychological characteristics. For instance, participants were asked if they pay attention to calories, if they are physically active, and about social influences and personality factors.
Adventurous eaters, or food neophiles, had lower BMIs and were more likely to cook meals, connect with their heritage, host friends for dinner, be physically active, and be concerned about the healthfulness of food, as compared to non-adventurous eaters. This is one of the first studies to investigate food neophiles; thus, further examining these individuals’ characteristics and behaviors, as well as how food neophiles may intersect with others interested in food (e.g., foodies), is needed. It is possible that practitioners and educators could promote adventurous eating in children and adults to help individuals achieve a healthy weight without feeling as restricted as many traditional weight-loss programs.
Lizzy Pope, PhD, Cornell University Food and Brand Lab
1 Latimer, L., Pope, L., Wansink, B. (2015) Food Neophiles: Profiling the Adventurous Eater. Obesity. doi: 10.1002/oby.21154