Cochrane Library | August 2019 | Simple changes to food environments may reduce overconsumption
A piece of research that explored the impact of convenience and proximity altered individual’s decisions to consume food, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products; the researchers behind this study wanted to see if this altered people’s decision to purchase and consume these food products.
The team used 24 studies from high-income countries, all of the studies included had at two different levels of availability of a product (6 studies) or its proximity (18 studies), and included a measure of selection or consumption of the manipulated product.
See also: Cochrane Simple changes to food environments may reduce overconsumption
Full reference: Hollands, G.J. | 2019| Altering the availability or proximity of food, alcohol, and tobacco products to change their selection and consumption| Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews|Issue 8| Art. No.: CD012573. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012573.pub2.
Altering the availability or proximity of food, alcohol, and tobacco products to change their selection and consumption
Unhealthy patterns of consumption of food, alcohol, and tobacco products are important causes of ill health. Changing the availability (the range or amount of options, or both) of these products or their proximity (the distance at which they are positioned) to potential consumers could help people make healthier choices.
What is the aim of this review?
This review investigated whether altering the availability or proximity of food (including non‐alcoholic beverages), alcohol, and tobacco products changed people’s selection (such as purchasing) or consumption of those products. We searched for all available evidence from randomised controlled trials (a type of study in which participants are assigned to one of two or more treatment groups using a random method) to answer this question, and found 24 studies, all of which were conducted in high‐income countries.
What are the main results of the review?
Six studies involved availability interventions, of which four changed the relative proportion of less‐healthy to healthier options, and two changed the absolute number of different options available. In statistical analyses that combined results from multiple studies, it was found that reducing the number of available options for a particular range or category of food(s) reduced selection of those food products (from analysing 154 participants) and possibly reduced consumption of those products (from 150 participants). However, the certainty of the evidence for these effects was low.
Eighteen studies involved proximity interventions. Most (14/18) changed the distance at which a snack food or drink was placed from the participants, whilst four studies changed the order of meal components encountered along a line. One study found that this reduced selection of food (from analysing 41 participants), whilst in a statistical analysis combining results from multiple studies, it was found that placing food farther away reduced consumption of those food products (from analysing 1098 participants). However, the certainty of the evidence for these effects was very low and low, respectively.
Mindful of its limitations, the current evidence suggests that changing the number of available food options or changing where foods are positioned could contribute to meaningful changes in behaviour, justifying policy actions to promote such changes to food environments. However, more high‐quality studies in real‐world settings are needed to make this finding more certain.
Cochrane Altering the availability or proximity of food, alcohol, and tobacco products to change their selection and consumption
Public Health England Health Matters: Addressing the food environment as part of a local whole systems approach to obesity