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BHRU Annual Lecture 2017 – Tackling childhood obesity: Are we doing enough?

We are proud to present our speaker and topic for this year’s annual lecture, in association with the Centre for Science and Policy. The lecture will be held in The Howard Lecture Theatre, Downing College commencing at 18:00 on Thursday 11th May and will be followed by drinks.

Professor Corinna Hawkes, Professor of Food Policy, City University will provide an overview of actions being taken in the UK and around the world to address childhood obesity, focusing particularly on actions to improve diets. Professor Hawkes will argue that real progress in overcoming childhood obesity can only be made when a more inclusive and integrated approach is taken.

To register click here.

*This event is free to attend and open to all.*

Does bottle size affect the amount of cola consumed at home?

Does bottle size affect the amount of cola consumed at home?

Sub-dividing a fixed amount of a sugar-sweetened beverage in smaller vs larger bottles could help curb their consumption but so far, no studies have tested this possibility.

In our study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, we assessed the feasibility of running a trial on the impact of bottle size on in-home consumption of cola, in which households would receive a set amount of cola each week for four weeks, in bottles of one of four sizes (1500 ml, 1000 ml, 500 ml, or 250 ml).

We ran the study with 16 households and found the procedures to be both feasible and acceptable. We identified issues, however, associated with the study design, which are likely to impact on the validity of the primary outcome, i.e. consumption level. These include consumption driven by study-determined supply and a failure to capture out-of-home consumption. Methods to avoid these would be needed before conducting a definitive trial.

Impact of bottle size on in-home consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages: a feasibility and acceptability study. Mantzari E, Hollands G, Pechey R, Jebb S, Marteau T.

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How did Twitter respond to updated UK alcohol guidelines?

In January 2016, the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers released a public consultation regarding updated guidelines for low-risk alcohol consumption. Online search behaviour suggests that the announcement of new alcohol guidelines generated awareness and interest. But what was the nature of the public response?

Our new study, published in BMJ Open, examined responses to the updated guidelines using comments made on Twitter. We aimed to identify the source, sentiment, and themes present in over 3,000 tweets made in the week following the announcement of the new guidelines (January 8th -14th, 2016).

Reactions on Twitter to updated alcohol guidelines in the UK: a content analysis. Stautz K, Bignardi G, Hollands GJ, Marteau TM.

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The Behaviour and Health Research Unit contributes evidence to national and international efforts to achieve sustained behaviour change to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities.

The main focus of our work is on developing effective ways of changing four sets of behaviour – smoking, excessive consumption of food and alcohol, and physical inactivity. Changing theses behaviours positively would help to prevent the majority of the preventable non-communicable diseases, including many cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Further information about the BHRU can be found on our research, publications, and team member pages.

Children exposed to vaping ads are less likely to think occasional smoking is bad for health

Children exposed to vaping ads are less likely to think occasional smoking is bad for health

In a new study published 6th September in Tobacco Control we show that exposing children to advertisements for e-cigarettes may reduce how harmful they think occasional tobacco smoking is for their health.

Children are now more likely to experiment with e-cigarettes than they are with tobacco cigarettes. There is concern that the increasing exposure of children to e-cigarette adverts could be contributing to higher rates of experimentation; in the US, adolescents’ exposure to e-cigarette adverts on TV more than trebled between 2011 to 2013.

We assigned 564 British children to one of three groups: one group was shown adverts depicting e-cigarettes as glamorous; a second group adverts depicting e-cigarettes as healthier alternatives to tobacco cigarettes; and a third, control group, in which the children saw no adverts. The children were then asked a series of questions aimed at determining their attitudes towards smoking and vaping.

Children shown the adverts were no more or less likely than the control group to perceive tobacco smoking as appealing and all three groups understood that smoking more than ten cigarettes a day was harmful. However, both groups of children exposed to the e-cigarette adverts, both healthy and glamorous, were less likely to believe that smoking one or two tobacco cigarettes occasionally was harmful.

These results support the recent changes in EU regulations surrounding the marketing of e-cigarettes, but raise questions about the need for further regulation regarding the content of e-cigarette products that appeal to children. More research is needed to replicate this finding and to examine both the short- and long-term impacts of e-cigarette advertising on children.

What is the impact of e-cigarette adverts on children’s perceptions of tobacco smoking? An experimental study. Petrescu, D, Vasiljevic, M, Pepper, JK, Ribisl, KM, Marteau, TM.

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Presenting images of negative health outcomes leads to healthier food choices

Presenting images of negative health outcomes leads to healthier food choices

In an experimental study published in Health Psychology, we examine the impact on people’s choices of presenting food images paired with positive or negative images of the health consequences of eating those foods. We found that presenting images of negative health outcomes led to more healthy food choices, irrespective of whether they were paired with images of energy-dense snack foods or of fruit. Images of positive health outcomes did not alter food choices.

These results are consonant with a large and diverse body of research in psychology and public health showing that negative stimuli tend to have more impact on cognition and behaviour than positive stimuli. This work provides insights relevant to health communication interventions where aversive visual images are used to alter the consumption of products that impact on human health.

Pairing images of unhealthy and healthy foods with images of negative and positive health consequences: impact on attitudes and food choice. Hollands & Marteau. 2016

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