In the developed world food is abundant and we must make choices about our food - choices in what we eat, dosage how much we eat and when we eat. But with these choices come problems. It can be hard to make healthy decisions, often foods that are inexpensive and convenient contain a large number of calories, in consequence the levels of overweight and obesity are high and rising. This has clear consequences on our health; not just diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, but psychiatric problems like anxiety and depression.

These health problems are accompanied by huge social and economic costs: they affect individuals in the midst of their working lives, impoverishing families through time lost at work and impaired employment prospects. Stress can add to these pressures, and can enhance the vicious cycle of weight-gain through “comfort eating”.

The factors that drive food choice are poorly understood. Nudge-it is devoted to developing and implementing novel scientific approaches to better understand this problem and provide evidence-based solutions.

Nudge-it is a truly inter-disciplinary project. Partners’ experience encompasses neurobiology, neuroimaging, computational modelling, economics and public policy.

Topics Nudge-it are currently working on include:

- “Mindless” eating 

-  To eat or not to eat? 

-  Why do we eat more (or less) when we feel different emotions? 

-  Snacking - a cause of weight gain? 

-  The neurobiology of food choices in hunger and satiety 

-  How do we choose what to eat? 

- The importance of early-life experience 

Nudge-it is a European Commission-funded FP7 project bringing together dozens of scientists from 16 institutions across six European countries, the US and New Zealand. The project engages internationally leading experts in the neurobiology of motivational behaviour, reward and regulation of appetite, experimental psychology, functional brain imaging, behavioural economics and computational modelling.

The project will develop innovative tools that link understanding across these interacting disciplines. The overall aim is to better understand decision-making in food choice and to build predictive models to contribute to improving public health policy.

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