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Using cognitive neuroscience to understand how consumers make and maintain healthy food choices (NEUROSCIENCE AND FOOD)
Start date: 01 Oct 2007, End date: 30 Sep 2011 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Europe is experiencing an alarming increase in overeating and obesity. Increased awareness of the significant impact of diet on health and well-being has driven the food industry to develop healthier products; in particular those with less salt, sugar and/or fat. Industry faces a challenge - such ingredients are inherently rewarding; the healthy alternatives may initially be selected and liked, but will that choice endure or will consumers revert to their previous loyalties. Durability in their selection of healthy products is a pre-requisite if social, health and economic benefits are to be secured. The reasons why individuals choose particular food products are complex and not fully understood.Recent advances using cognitive neuroscience are now beginning to identify the brain mechanisms by which food preferences are established and how these guide future food selections. New tools, such as those employed in cognitive neuroscience, are required to measure and assess these subtle psychological processes in order to create food products that make the healthy choice easier, more durable and motivating for consumers. This ambitious project is an initiative by an industrial partner (Unilever) and two universities (U. of Wales, Bangor, and Trinity College, Dublin) to generate a deeper understanding of the basic mechanisms underlying food liking and choice.Unilever will provide market-oriented steering of the scheme, drawing on its extensive knowledge of and facilities for sensory and consumer research, while the two universities will contribute their relevant and complementary experience and expertise in using state-of-the-art technology for cognitive neuroscience. The ultimate goal is to strengthen the European food industry's capacity for health related innovation in its own interest and to support governmental programmes to promote healthier eating. The project will form the foundation for ongoing collaboration between the partners.
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