How Does Psychology Affect Organic Food Consumption?

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An image of an organic food-based meal. Does psychology affect a person's propensity for organic food consumption?
Image by Jerry Gorecki @Pixabay

A group of researchers investigated how a person’s psychology affects their organic food consumption. The investigation was to uncover whether or not a person’s Consideration of Future Consequences (CFC) was a factor in their propensity to purchase organic food.

Consideration of future consequences

Sales of organic foods have increased in recent years. While there are many reasons for this increase, the psychological factor has rarely been studied. With this in mind, a group of researchers in France investigated the impact of Consideration of Future Consequences on organic food purchases. CFC is a measure of the extent to which people consider the potential future consequences of their current behaviour. The question is if the higher a person’s CFC, the more they will allow potential future consequences to guide their current actions.

The researchers used data that originated from the NutriNet-Santé Study in France. The NutriNet-Santé Study is a prospective longitudinal study that examines the relationship between nutrition and eating behaviour. The participants in the study are 18 years of age or older, from the general French population, who filled out web-based questionnaires to describe such factors as their diet, physical activity, health, socioeconomic status, and lifestyle.

The Consideration of Future Consequences was measured by using the results of the French language version of the CFC-12 questionnaire, taken from June to November 2014. This questionnaire comprised a 12-item self-report. The participants were asked questions to determine their views on timelines (future orientation) relating to the consequences of their current behaviour.

Finally, the participants’ organic food consumption was evaluated using an organic food frequency questionnaire (Org-FFQ). This questionnaire was taken from June to October 2014. The participants were asked to report their consumption of 264 different food items for the past year.

In total, 27,634 participants completed all three questionnaires (NutriNet-Santé, CFC-12, and Org-FFQ). It was these participants whose results the researchers studied. The results were recently published in the Nutrition Journal.

Higher CFC more likely to consume organic food

Overall, the participants with a higher CFC, that is, a future orientation, were more likely to consume organic food than those with a lower CFC. The high-CFC individuals were also more likely to be younger, have a high education level, and have a lower BMI than the low-CFC participants.

However, while this study showed that future-oriented individuals were more likely to be organic food consumers, the associations varied by the type of organic food studied. For example, the greatest associations were found with starchy refined foods, fruits and vegetables, and non-alcoholic beverages. In contrast, no association was found for,

  • seafood,
  • meat,
  • poultry,
  • processed meat,
  • dairy products
  • and meat substitutes.

Some limitations of the NutriNet-Santé Study were recruitment efforts. Those with a higher-than-average interest in nutrition issues could have over-predicted the national proportion of organic food consumers as a whole. As well, with all data being from self-reporting questionnaires, some measurement errors were possible.

CFC encourages the consumption of organic food

Knowing that psychology, specifically the Consideration of Future Consequences, can positively influence the consumption of organic food. Programs aimed at increasing the intake of organics should take this factor into account. An application of this would be in the communication of healthy eating habits by public health services.

Reference

  1. Bénard M, Baudry J, Méjean, C. et al. Association between time perspective and organic food consumption in a large sample of adults. Nutr J 17, 1 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-017-0311-0

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