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Do distant foods decrease intake? The effect of food accessibility on consumption

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Objective: Two studies examined the hypothesis that making snacks less accessible contributes to the regulation of food intake. Study 1 examined whether decreasing the accessibility of snacks reduces probability and amount of snack intake. The aim of Study 2 was to replicate the results and explore the underlying mechanism in terms of perceived effort to obtain the snack and perceived salience of the snack.

Methods: In Study 1 (N = 77) and Study 2 (N = 54) distance to a bowl of snacks was randomly varied at 20, 70 or 140 cm in an experimental between-subjects design. Main outcome measures were the number of people who ate any snacks (probability of snack intake), the amount of snacks consumed and risk of compensatory behaviour as measured by food craving. In Study 2, self-report ratings of salience and effort were examined to explore potential underlying mechanisms.

Results: Study 1 showed lower probability and amount of intake in either of more distant conditions (70 and 140 cm) compared to the proximal condition (20 cm), with no unintended effects in terms of increased craving. Study 2 replicated the results of Study 1 and showed that distance affected perceived effort but not salience.

Conclusions: Making snacks less accessible by putting them further away is a potentially effective strategy to decrease snack intake, without risk of compensatory behaviour.
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Keywords: distance; food accessibility; food intake; obesogenic environment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Clinical and Health Psychology,Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands 2: Department of Social and Organizational Psychology,Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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