Food intake in healthy young adults: Effects of time pressure and social factors

Jim Waterhouse, Laura Bailey, Faye Tomlinson, Benjamin Edwards, Greg Atkinson, Thomas Reilly

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    15 Citations (Scopus)


    Some factors influencing food intake and subjective responses to meals were assessed in 2 groups (n = 40 and n = 36) of healthy university students. Both groups were studied for 6 days and included both "structured" and "unstructured" times. A questionnaire was completed by all subjects at 3 h intervals while awake. The questionnaires asked the subjects to state the factors that led them to choose to eat or not to eat a meal in the previous 3 h. If they ate a meal, they were required to describe the type of meal eaten and their responses to it - their hunger before it, their enjoyment of the meal itself, and their degree of satisfaction afterwards. Subjects were also asked to describe the type of meal that they would like to have eaten (the desired meal) in the absence of any restraints due to time pressure, cost, and so on. In the first group, 3 "structured" (working) and 3 "unstructured" (rest) days were chosen. Consistant with our previous studies, structured days, as compared to unstructured days, were associated with smaller meals and less positive subjective responses to them. Also, the meals that were eaten were often smaller than those that were desired, or were even missed altogether, due to time pressure. Not only were the meals eaten on unstructured days larger and rated, to by the subjects more positively, but also there was an additional positive effect if the meal played a social role. In the second group, 6 days were chosen, during which there were structured and unstructured 3 h periods. Many of the findings (with regard to reasons for eating or not eating a meal, and the effect of meal size upon subjective responses to it, for example) were the same as in the first group. However, the effect of structured vs. unstructured 3 h periods was significantly less marked than the effect of structured vs. unstructured days that had been found in the first group, and effects due to social factors and time pressure were less reliably present. The results indicate that food intake is affected by whether the whole or only part of the day is "structured" or "unstructured." These findings might be relevant to some problems faced by the workforce, in general, and by night workers, in particular.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1069-1092
    Number of pages24
    JournalChronobiology International
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2005


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