Publications by authors named "Devina Wadhera"

8 Publications

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Modeling the Diet Dynamics of Children: the Roles of Socialization and the School Environment.

Lett Biomath 2018 7;5(1):275-306. Epub 2018 Dec 7.

Simon A. Levin Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States.

Childhood obesity is a health emergency in many parts of the world including the U.S. and, consequently, identifying local, regional or national intervention models capable, of altering the dynamics of obesity at scales that make a difference remains a challenge. The fact that consumption of healthful foods among most youth has yet to meet recommended nutritional standards highlights a lack of effective policies aimed at addressing the epidemic of obesity. Mathematical models are used to evaluate the roles of socialization and school environment on the diet dynamics of children. Data suggest that standard nutrition education programs may have, at best, minimal impact in altering diet dynamics at the population-level. Inclusion of peer influence (model as contagion) reinforced by the use of culturally-sensitive school menus (environmental disruption) may prove capable of modifying obesity enhancing diet dynamics; altering the diets of a significant (critical) proportion of youngsters. A framework is introduced to explore the value of behavior-based interventions and policies that account for the sociocultural environments of at risk communities. These models capture carefully choreographed scenarios to account for the fact that when dealing with diet-dynamics systems, thinking additively is not enough as it cannot account for the power of nonlinear effects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23737867.2018.1552543DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6349252PMC
December 2018

The rewarding effects of number and surface area of food in rats.

Learn Behav 2018 Sep;46(3):242-255

Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA.

Visual cues have an important role in food preference for both rats and humans. Here, we aim to isolate the effects of numerosity, density, and surface area on food preference and running speed in rats, by using a forced-choice maze paradigm. In Experiment 1, rats preferred and ran faster for a group of multiple smaller pellets rather than a single large pellet, corroborating previous research (Capaldi, Miller, & Alptekin Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 15(1), 75-80, 1989). Further experiments tested the prevailing hypothesis that multiple food pieces are more reinforcing because they occupy a larger surface area. Experiment 2 controlled for numerosity by utilizing a continuous food: mashed potatoes flattened to cover a larger surface area or rounded into a ball. The rats preferred and ran faster for the flattened potatoes, suggesting surface area plays a role in quantity estimations. Finally, in Experiment 3, rats displayed no preference or difference in running speed between a group of scattered and clustered pellets when number of pellets were kept constant. Taken together, these results suggest that density has an important role in food perception-that is, the rewarding effect of higher numerosity or larger surface area is removed when the food does not fill out the entire space. Alternative explanations and implications for human diet are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13420-017-0305-yDOI Listing
September 2018

Modeling eating behaviors: The role of environment and positive food association learning via a Ratatouille effect.

Math Biosci Eng 2016 08;13(4):841-855

Simon A Levin Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States. email:

Eating behaviors among a large population of children are studied as a dynamic process driven by nonlinear interactions in the sociocultural school environment. The impact of food association learning on diet dynamics, inspired by a pilot study conducted among Arizona children in Pre-Kindergarten to 8th grades, is used to build simple population-level learning models. Qualitatively, mathematical studies are used to highlight the possible ramifications of instruction, learning in nutrition, and health at the community level. Model results suggest that nutrition education programs at the population-level have minimal impact on improving eating behaviors, findings that agree with prior field studies. Hence, the incorporation of food association learning may be a better strategy for creating resilient communities of healthy and non-healthy eaters. A Ratatouille effect can be observed when food association learners become food preference learners, a potential sustainable behavioral change, which in turn, may impact the overall distribution of healthy eaters. In short, this work evaluates the effectiveness of population-level intervention strategies and the importance of institutionalizing nutrition programs that factor in economical, social, cultural, and environmental elements that mesh well with the norms and values in the community.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3934/mbe.2016020DOI Listing
August 2016

Teaching children to like and eat vegetables.

Appetite 2015 Oct 26;93:75-84. Epub 2015 Jun 26.

Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, 950 S. McAllister Ave., Tempe, AZ 85287, USA.

Higher vegetable intake has been related to lower risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, several cancers and obesity. Yet children consume fewer than the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables set forth by the USDA. Exposure to vegetables has successfully improved children's liking for and consumption of vegetables particularly for children younger than two years. In contrast, associative conditioning seems necessary for older children, especially with bitter vegetables. We review studies using both exposure and associative conditioning to teach children to like vegetables, including flavor-flavor learning and flavor-calorie learning. Recognizing these different processes helps reconcile discrepant literature and may provide techniques for increasing preferences for vegetables in children. Associative conditioning and exposure can be used by parents and others to enhance children's liking for and consumption of vegetables.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2015.06.016DOI Listing
October 2015

Perceived recollection of frequent exposure to foods in childhood is associated with adulthood liking.

Appetite 2015 Jun 20;89:22-32. Epub 2015 Jan 20.

Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, 950 S. McAllister Ave., Tempe, AZ 85287-1104.

Food preferences and habits learned at a young age can influence adulthood dietary patterns and weight, but the mechanism remains to be elucidated. We investigated the effect of perceived recollections of early food experiences on current liking for those foods by 670 college students. We showed that the perceived recollection of frequent consumption of foods in childhood was significantly related to current liking for the vast majority of the foods, including nutritious foods such as vegetables. Similarly, parental encouragement and modeling was positively related with current liking, even for foods that were disliked in childhood. Additionally, perceived recollections of parental restriction or forced consumption were significantly negatively related with current liking. Lastly, we demonstrated that perceived recollections by college students of childhood eating practices were in moderate agreement with those of their parents, lending credibility to the retrospective survey methodology in determining long-term effects of exposure on current food habits. These findings show that the perceived recalled frequency of consumption of foods is one determinant of the food preferences of adults, demonstrating a long-term effect of frequency of exposure, a finding consistent with experimentally controlled short-term studies. Frequent exposure to foods in childhood could be a simple and effective way for parents and caregivers to instill healthy eating habits in children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2015.01.011DOI Listing
June 2015

Associative conditioning can increase liking for and consumption of brussels sprouts in children aged 3 to 5 years.

J Acad Nutr Diet 2014 Aug 16;114(8):1236-41. Epub 2014 Jan 16.

Pairing foods with liked flavors repeatedly can increase preferences for those foods. We compared the effectiveness of associative conditioning (pairing vegetables with sweetened and unsweetened cream cheese) and exposure (presenting vegetables alone) in increasing liking and consumption of bitter and nonbitter vegetables. Twenty-nine children (aged 3 to 5 years) participated in the study. One group of children received brussels sprouts (bitter) with sweetened cream cheese and cauliflower (nonbitter) with unsweetened cream cheese and a second group received the reverse pairing. A third group received brussels sprouts and cauliflower with no cream cheese. Pairing brussels sprouts with cream cheese increased liking and consumption more than exposure, whereas cauliflower was liked by all groups regardless of presence of cream cheese. Associative conditioning was more effective than exposure in increasing liking for a novel, bitter vegetable-brussels sprouts-whereas exposure alone was effective for a nonbitter, more familiar vegetable-cauliflower.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2013.11.014DOI Listing
August 2014

A review of visual cues associated with food on food acceptance and consumption.

Eat Behav 2014 Jan 28;15(1):132-43. Epub 2013 Nov 28.

Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA. Electronic address:

Several sensory cues affect food intake including appearance, taste, odor, texture, temperature, and flavor. Although taste is an important factor regulating food intake, in most cases, the first sensory contact with food is through the eyes. Few studies have examined the effects of the appearance of a food portion on food acceptance and consumption. The purpose of this review is to identify the various visual factors associated with food such as proximity, visibility, color, variety, portion size, height, shape, number, volume, and the surface area and their effects on food acceptance and consumption. We suggest some ways that visual cues can be used to increase fruit and vegetable intake in children and decrease excessive food intake in adults. In addition, we discuss the need for future studies that can further establish the relationship between several unexplored visual dimensions of food (specifically shape, number, size, and surface area) and food intake.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2013.11.003DOI Listing
January 2014

Categorization of foods as "snack" and "meal" by college students.

Appetite 2012 Jun 14;58(3):882-8. Epub 2012 Feb 14.

Arizona State University, 950 S. McAllister Avenue, Tempe, AZ-85287, USA.

The cognitive representation of a food as being a "snack" or a "meal" influences eating behavior. We found previously that subjects who considered a particular food to be a 'snack' ate significantly more calories when tested later than subjects who considered the same foods as a 'meal'. We conducted two surveys to determine the categorization of foods as "snacks" or "meals". Survey 2 included a larger variety of foods with detailed descriptions and a response option of "never tried". Both surveys found that potato chips, crackers, cookies, and nuts were consistently viewed as snacks, while soups, burritos, pizza, and pancakes were consistently viewed as meals. Useful for future research are foods we found that students varied in considering a snack or meal. Survey 1 found that half the respondents viewed toast, cheese on toast, muffins, and French fries as snacks and the other half as meals. Similarly, in Survey 2 potato salad, toast with jam, English muffin, cinnamon rolls, and nachos were categorized almost equally as snack and meal. These foods can be used in studies looking at the effects of categorizing a food as a meal or snack on other behaviors or categorization, while controlling for the food item.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2012.02.006DOI Listing
June 2012