Environmental determinants of healthy eating: in need of theory and evidence

J. Brug*, S.P. Kremers, F. Lenthe, K. Ball, D. Crawford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In order to promote healthful nutrition, insight is needed into the determinants of nutrition behaviours. Behavioural determinant research and behavioural nutrition interventions have focused mostly on individual-level motivational factors. It has been argued that the individual's socio-cultural and physical environments may be the main determinants of nutrition behaviours. However, the theoretical basis and empirical evidence for environmental determinants of nutrition behaviours are not strong. The present paper is a narrative review informed by a series of systematic reviews and recent original studies on associations between environmental factors and nutrition behaviours to provide an overview and discussion of the evidence for environmental correlates and predictors of nutrition behaviour. Although the number of studies on potential environmental determinants of nutrition behaviours has increased steeply over the last decades, they include only a few well-designed studies with validated measures and guided by sound theoretical frameworks. The preliminary evidence from the available systematic reviews indicates that socio-cultural environmental factors defining what is socially acceptable, desirable and appropriate to eat may be more important for healthful eating than physical environments that define the availability and accessibility of foods. It is concluded that there is a lack of well-designed studies on environmental determinants of healthful eating behaviours. Preliminary evidence indicates that social environmental factors may be more important than physical environmental factors for healthful eating. Better-designed studies are needed to further build evidence-based theory on environmental determinants to guide the development of interventions to promote healthful eating.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-16
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

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