University of Chicago study: Infants develop early understanding of social nature of food

23 Aug

Patti Neighmond reported in the NPR story, It Takes More Than A Produce Aisle To Refresh A Food Desert:

“The next part of the intervention is to create demand,” he says, “so the community wants to come to the store and buy healthy fruits and vegetables and go home and prepare those foods in a healthy way, without lots of fat, salt or sugar.”
Ortega directs a UCLA project that converts corner stores into hubs of healthy fare in low-income neighborhoods of East Los Angeles. He and colleagues work with community leaders and local high school students to help create that demand for nutritious food. Posters and signs promoting fresh fruits and vegetables hang in corner stores, such as the Euclid Market in Boyle Heights, and at bus stops. There are nutrition education classes in local schools, and cooking classes in the stores themselves….
The jury’s still out on whether these conversions of corner stores are actually changing people’s diets and health. The evidence is still being collected.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/10/273046077/takes-more-than-a-produce-aisle-to-refresh-a-food-desert

In other words, much of the obesity problem is due to personal life style choices and the question is whether government can or should regulate those choices. The issue is helping folk to want to make healthier food choices even on a food stamp budget. See, Cheap Eats: Cookbook Shows How To Eat Well On A Food Stamp Budget http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/08/01/337141837/cheap-eats-cookbook-shows-how-to-eat-well-on-a-food-stamp-budget    A University of Buffalo study reports that what a baby eats depends on the social class of the mother.

Roberto A. Ferdman of the Washington Post wrote in the article, The stark difference between what poor babies and rich babies eat:

The difference between what the rich and poor eat in America begins long before a baby can walk, or even crawl.
A team of researchers at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences found considerable differences in the solid foods babies from different socioeconomic classes were being fed. Specifically, diets high in sugar and fat were found to be associated with less educated mothers and poorer households, while diets that more closely followed infant feeding guidelines were linked to higher education and bigger bank accounts.
“We found that differences in dietary habits start very early,” said Xiaozhong Wen, the study’s lead author.
The researchers used data from the Infant Feeding Practices study, an in depth look at baby eating habits, which tracked the diets of more than 1,500 infants up until age one, and documented which of 18 different food types—including breast milk, formula, cow’s milk, other milk (like soy milk), other dairy foods (like yogurt), other soy foods (like tofu), 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, and sweet drinks, among others – their mothers fed them. Wen’s team at the University at Buffalo focused on what the infants ate over the course of a week at both 6- and 12-months old.
In many cases, infants were fed foods that would surprise even the least stringent of mothers. Candy, ice cream, soda, and french fries, for instance, were among the foods some of the babies were being fed. Researchers divided the 18 different food types into four distinct categories, two of which were ideal for infant consumption—”formula” and “infant guideline solids”—two of which were not—”high/sugar/fat/protein” and “high/regular cereal.” It became clear which babies tended to be fed appropriately, and which did not….
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/04/the-stark-difference-between-what-poor-babies-and-rich-babies-eat/

For a really good discussion of the effects of poverty on children, read the American Psychological Association (APA), Effects of Poverty, Hunger, and Homelessness on Children and Youth                                                                                                                     http://www.apa.org/pi/families/poverty.aspx

Science Daily reported in Infants develop early understanding of social nature of food:

Infants develop expectations about what people prefer to eat, providing early evidence of the social nature through which humans understand food, according to a new study conducted at the University of Chicago.

The study, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found infants expect people to share food preferences unless they belong to different social groups. Their understanding changes when it comes to disgust toward a food, with infants expecting such reactions to transcend the boundaries of social groups.

“Even before infants appear to make smart choices about what substances to ingest, they form nuanced expectations that food preferences are fundamentally linked to social groups and social identity,” said Zoe Liberman, a University of California, Santa Barbara assistant professor who completed the research while a UChicago doctoral student.

In past studies researchers found infants could watch what other people ate in order to learn whether a food was edible. The new study looks beyond learning objective properties about foods to examine the expectations infants hold around who will agree or disagree on food preferences.

The study has important implications for policymakers working on public health, particularly obesity. The findings underscore the need to look beyond just teaching children which foods are healthy when combating obesity to focus on the social nature of decisions surrounding what to eat.

“For humans, food choice is a deeply social and cultural affair. These new findings show that infants are tuning into critical information for understanding the social world, as well as for reasoning about food,” said Amanda L. Woodward, the William S. Gray Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago.

Additional authors of the study were Kathleen R. Sullivan, social science analyst at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Katherine Kinzler, associate professor at Cornell University….                                                                                                                                           https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160822140701.htm

Citation:

Infants develop early understanding of social nature of food

Study finds preferences follow social groups and language; disgust seen as universal

Date:        August 22, 2016

Source:     University of Chicago

Summary:

A new study finds infants develop expectations about what people prefer to eat, providing early evidence of the social nature through which humans understand food.

Journal Reference:

  1. Zoe Liberman, Amanda L. Woodward, Kathleen R. Sullivan, Katherine D. Kinzler. Early emerging system for reasoning about the social nature of food. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016; 201605456 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1605456113

Here is the press release from the University of Chicago:

Infants develop early understanding of social nature of food

Study finds preferences follow social groups and language; disgust seen as universal

By Mark Peters

August 22, 2016

Press Inquiries

Infants develop expectations about what people prefer to eat, providing early evidence of the social nature through which humans understand food, according to a new study conducted at the University of Chicago.

The study, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found infants expect people to share food preferences unless they belong to different social groups. Their understanding changes when it comes to disgust toward a food, with infants expecting such reactions to transcend the boundaries of social groups.

“Even before infants appear to make smart choices about what substances to ingest, they form nuanced expectations that food preferences are fundamentally linked to social groups and social identity,” said Zoe Liberman, a University of California, Santa Barbara assistant professor who completed the research while a UChicago doctoral student.

In past studies researchers found infants could watch what other people ate in order to learn whether a food was edible. The new study looks beyond learning objective properties about foods to examine the expectations infants hold around who will agree or disagree on food preferences.

The study has important implications for policymakers working on public health, particularly obesity. The findings underscore the need to look beyond just teaching children which foods are healthy when combating obesity to focus on the social nature of decisions surrounding what to eat.

“For humans, food choice is a deeply social and cultural affair. These new findings show that infants are tuning into critical information for understanding the social world, as well as for reasoning about food,” said Amanda L. Woodward, the William S. Gray Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago.

Additional authors of the study were Kathleen R. Sullivan, social science analyst at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Katherine Kinzler, associate professor at Cornell University.

In conducting the study, researchers used a method based on the duration infants look to determine their expectations: Infants tend to look longer at events they find relatively more surprising.

For example, monolingual infants in the study consistently looked longer when actors who spoke the same language disagreed on their food choice. The same was true when actors who spoke different languages agreed on their food choice. The reactions suggest monolingual infants expected food preferences to be consistent within a single linguistic group, but not necessarily the same across groups.

Responses were different for infants raised in bilingual environments. Bilingual infants in the study expected food preferences to be consistent even across linguistic groups, suggesting diverse social experiences may make children more flexible in determining which people like the same foods.

When it came to disgust for a food, infants looked longer when actors disagreed over a food being disgusting, even when the actors came from different social groups. The finding suggests infants might be vigilant toward potentially dangerous foods, and expect all people to avoid foods that are disgusting, regardless of their social group.                                                                                                                    https://news.uchicago.edu/article/2016/08/22/infants-develop-early-understanding-social-nature-food

The issue of childhood obesity is complicated and there are probably many factors. If a child’s family does not model healthy eating habits, it probably will be difficult to change the food preferences of the child.

Our goal as a society should be:

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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