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Food neophiles are individuals that enjoy exploring and eating new and different foods. This study aimed to determine the relationship between food neophilia and body mass index (BMI) for a young-adult population. We hypothesized that adult food neophiles would have lower BMIs compared to less adventurous eaters. This study also examined whether differences in food adventurousness correlate with personality, health, and eating characteristics.
For the study, 501 diverse, young women with a mean age of 26.8 years completed a nationwide online survey. The survey assessed eating adventurousness, perceptions of novel foods, lifestyle and psychological characteristics, and BMI. Eating adventurousness was measured with the question: “Which of the following foods have you tried?” where participants could indicate that they had tried 0-16 novel foods-- including seitan, beef tongue, polenta, and bean sprouts. Participants who indicated that they had tried more than half of the novel foods listed were considered to be adventurous eaters. Linear regression analyses and a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) were run for each of the variables on perceptions of novel foods, and lifestyle and psychology to examine differences between adventurous and non-adventurous eaters.
The average number of novel foods that the participants indicated had trying was 5.95. The average BMI of participants was 25.96. As hypothesized, food neophiles had significantly lower BMIs. They were also more likely to cook to connect with their heritage, host friends for dinner, be physically active, and be concerned about the healthfulness of food than non-adventurous eaters.
The finding that food neophiles had significantly lower BMIs than non-adventurous eaters suggests that encouraging adults to be more adventurous eaters could help them lose/maintain weight without feeling as restricted.