HABIT is the most important factor influencing sugar consumption, new Irish research has found.
As health authorities worldwide grapple with the threat posed by excessive sugar intake, a study here has pinpointed the reasons people eat too much – and why some manage to kick the habit and others don't.
The survey of 500 consumers by Teagasc and University College Cork found that people who strongly believed they needed to cut down on sugar were more likely to do so, while those with stronger self-control also ate less.
Habit and eating for pleasure were strongly related to high sugar consumption.
"The most significant influence on behaviour was habit followed by perceived need," the study published in Teagasc's 'TResearch' magazine found.
But there is hope for those who want to cut down, as the techniques used by consumers who had successfully managed to cut down on sugar intake were compared with those who had failed to do so.
It emerged that consumers who set specific dietary goals were seven times more likely to successfully cut the amount of sugar they eat than those who failed to set dietary goals.
Researcher Dr Sinead McCarthy said: "People need to see success to persist so if, for instance, you set achievable weekly goals, you're more likely to stick to your goal."
People with a high level of self-control were also three times more likely to cut sugar consumption – but the good news was that you could improve your self-control by the positive reinforcement brought by meeting smaller targets.