Plain English Summary
Background and study aims
Our environments shape our behaviour, however little research has assessed whether healthier food cues have a similar impact to less healthy ones. Findings from a recent online study indicated that increasing the number of less healthy snack foods available may have a larger impact on food selection than increasing healthier foods. The aim of this study is to examine whether the availability of healthier vs. less healthy food alters the likelihood of selecting a healthier or less healthy snack for immediate consumption, and to determine if food selection is affected by individuals’ socioeconomic status, response inhibition and food appeal.
Who can participate?
Adults over the age of 18 who are able to attend a face-to-face study session in Cambridge, UK
What does the study involve?
Participants are randomly allocated to one of three groups (which vary in terms of the number of healthier vs less healthy foods they are offered). Participants in each group are offered a selection of snack foods, with the available snacks comprising a mix of healthier and less healthy snacks. Participants are asked to select one snack and are asked to consume the entire snack. Participants are also asked to complete measures of response inhibition and food appeal on a laptop at the start of a study, and questions measuring demographic variables after consuming the snacks.
What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
Participants will be paid £30 for participating in this study. There are no known risks of participating in the study.
Where is the study run from?
Behaviour and Health Research Unit, University of Cambridge (UK)
When is the study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
February 2018 to December 2019
Who is funding the study?
1. Wellcome Trust (UK)
2. National Institute for Health Research Policy Research Programme (UK)
Who is the main contact?
Dr Rachel Pechey
Impact of increasing the availability of healthier vs. less healthy food on food selection: a laboratory experiment
1. Increasing the number of less healthy food items will have a larger effect on food selection than increasing the number of healthier food items
2.1. Participants with higher socioeconomic status will be more likely to choose healthier foods after seeing a greater number of healthier food options than those with lower socioeconomic status
2.2. Participants with higher socioeconomic status will be less likely to choose less healthy foods after seeing a greater number of less healthy food options than those with lower socioeconomic status
3. Response inhibition and food appeal will both partially mediate the impact of socioeconomic status on food selection
Cambridge Psychology Research Ethics Committee, 28/03/2018, ref: Pre.2018.025
Single-centre three-group between-subjects design
Primary study design
Secondary study design
Randomised parallel trial
Patient information sheet
Not available in web format, please use the contact details to request a patient information sheet
Participants are randomly allocated into three groups, which vary in terms of the mix of healthier and less healthy foods offered:
Group 1: Snack selection contains 2 healthier and 2 less healthy foods.
Group 2: Snack selection contains 6 healthier and 2 less healthy foods.
Group 3: Snack selection contains 2 healthier and 6 less healthy foods.
Participants are told they will be taking part in a study investigating the effect of snacking on performance in cognitive tasks so that snack food can be consumed without making participants aware that the study is about snack selection (awareness of this may affect their snack selection). Participants are fully debriefed at the end of the session.
Participants are asked to select one snack and will be asked to consume the entire snack. Participants are also asked to complete implicit measures of response inhibition and food appeal on a laptop at the start of a study, and questions measuring demographic variables after consuming the snacks.
Primary outcome measure
Selection of healthier or less healthy snack item from the available array
Secondary outcome measures
Overall trial start date
Overall trial end date
Reason abandoned (if study stopped)
Participant inclusion criteria
1. Adults aged over 18 years
2. Participants currently residing within the UK and able to attend a face-to-face study session in Cambridge
Target number of participants
Participant exclusion criteria
Any food allergies or intolerances
Recruitment start date
Recruitment end date
Countries of recruitment
Trial participating centre
Behaviour and Health Research Unit
University of Cambridge Institute of Public Health
Funding Body Type
private sector organisation
Funding Body Subtype
National Institute for Health Research
Funding Body Type
Funding Body Subtype
Results and Publications
Publication and dissemination plan
1. Planned submission of the main results of this study for publication in a peer-reviewed journal
2. Dissemination of the results to the public, policy makers and other researchers through targeted social media
IPD sharing statement
The data sharing plans for the current study are unknown and will be made available at a later date.
Intention to publish date
Participant level data
To be made available at a later date
Basic results (scientific)