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Department of Nutritional Behaviour

The Department of Nutritional Behaviour explores everyday human actions related to nutrition, making consumers and their needs the focus of its investigations. Its research outcomes are used for policy guidance.

In the Department of Nutritional Behaviour, representatives of various social and natural sciences, such as home economics and nutritional sciences, sociology and public health, work together towards their goal of strengthening consumer competence and thus empowering consumers in the marketplace. The broad field of nutrition-related consumer research calls for diverse methodologies. In its research the department therefore uses quantitative as well as qualitative methods taken from the social sciences and epidemiology, and also conducts laboratory experiments.

The Department of Nutritional Behaviour addresses a number of focus areas: Within the focus area nutritional knowledge and attitudes consumers’ knowledge, skills and attitudes are explored and assessed with regard to need-based, healthy and sustainable nutrition. Since nutritional behaviour is not only determined by individual factors, within this focus area of nutritional behaviour the relevant settings are also analysed: the organisation of daily routines, infrastructure in terms of when and where consumers eat, as well as the general socio-economic context. In the focus area of nutritional information, the information available to consumers through the media as well as media users’ behaviour are analysed in respect to nutrition. In this focus area, the department is presently evaluating activities and programmes targeting information, education and health promotion. The results will serve to optimise ongoing activities, identify key factors for the success of future projects, as well as to report on the use of funds.

Another focus area is epidemiology oriented: the National Nutrition Survey (NVS) II and as a continuation of NVS II the National Nutrition Monitoring (NEMONIT), a longitudinal survey. The department is also in charge of maintaining, updating and developing the National Nutrient Database (BLS), which is used to evaluate the energy and nutrient intake of participants in food consumption studies.

Definition of Nutritional Behaviour

»Nutritional behavior is “the sum of all planned, spontaneous, or habitual actions of individuals or social groups to procure, prepare, and consume food as well as those actions related to storage and clearance. In this context, the term ‘nutritional behavior’ not only refers to influencing factors but also to health, environmental, social, and economic implications along the entire product chain from farmer to consumer” (Department of Nutritional Behaviour 2010; based on definitions by Leonhäuser et al. 2009, 20; and Oltersdorf 1984, 189).«