Food taboos are known from virtually all human societies. Most religions declare certain food items fit and others unfit for human consumption. Dietary rules and regulations may govern particular phases of the human life cycle and may be associated with special events such as menstrual period, pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and -- in traditional societies -- preparation for the hunt, battle, wedding, funeral, etc. On a comparative basis many food taboos seem to make no sense at all, as to what may be declared unfit by one group may be perfectly acceptable to another. On the other hand, food taboos have a long history and one ought to expect a sound explanation for the existence (and persistence) of certain dietary customs in a given culture. Yet, this is a highly debated view and no single theory may explain why people employ special food taboos. This paper wants to revive interest in food taboo research and attempts a functionalist's explanation. However, to illustrate some of the complexity of possible reasons for food taboo five examples have been chosen, namely traditional food taboos in orthodox Jewish and Hindu societies as well as reports on aspects of dietary restrictions in communities with traditional lifestyles of Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Nigeria. An ecological or medical background is apparent for many, including some that are seen as religious or spiritual in origin. On the one hand food taboos can help utilizing a resource more efficiently; on the other food taboos can lead to the protection of a resource. Food taboos, whether scientifically correct or not, are often meant to protect the human individual and the observation, for example, that certain allergies and depression are associated with each other could have led to declaring food items taboo that were identified as causal agents for the allergies. Moreover, any food taboo, acknowledged by a particular group of people as part of its ways, aids in the cohesion of this group, helps that particular group maintain its identity in the face of others, and therefore creates a feeling of "belonging".
We conducted a series of experiments to test the numerical competency of two species of birds, Corvus splendens (House Crow) and Acridotheres tristis (Common Myna). Both species were allowed to choose from seven different groups of mealworms with varying proportions. We considered the birds to have made a correct choice when it selected the food group with the highest number of mealworms. Our overall results indicated that the Common Myna is able to count numbers (161 successful choices out of 247 trials) better than House Crows (133 successful choices out of 241 trials). We suspect that House Crows do not rely on a numerical sense when selecting food. Although House Crows mostly chose the cup with more mealworms (from seven food item proportions), only one proportion was chosen at rate above random chance. The Common Myna, however, were slow performers at the beginning but became increasingly more capable of numerical sense during the remainder of the experiment (four out of seven food proportion groups were chosen at a rate above random chance).
Diets rich in whole grain are associated with several health benefits. Little is known however, about whole grain consumption patterns in Malaysia. The aim of this study was to assess whole grain intakes and dietary source in Malaysian children and adolescents.
Comprehensive feeding practices questionnaire (CFPQ) is an instrument specifically developed to evaluate parental feeding practices. It has been confirmed among children in America and applied to populations in France, Norway, and New Zealand. In order to extend the application of CFPQ, we conducted a factor structure validation of the translated version of CFPQ (CFPQ-M) using confirmatory factor analysis among mothers of primary school children (N = 397) in Malaysia. Several items were modified for cultural adaptation. Of 49 items, 39 items with loading factors >0.40 were retained in the final model. The confirmatory factor analysis revealed that the final model (twelve-factor model with 39 items and 2 error covariances) displayed the best fit for our sample (Chi-square = 1147; df = 634; P < 0.05; CFI = 0.900; RMSEA = 0.045; SRMR = 0.0058). The instrument with some modifications was confirmed among mothers of school children in Malaysia. The present study extends the usability of the CFPQ and enables researchers and parents to better understand the relationships between parental feeding practices and related problems such as childhood obesity.
A field study on foraging activity and proteinacous food preference was performed on the tropical fire ant (Solenopsis geminata) (Fabricius) at the School of Biological Sciences and Desasiswa Bakti Permai, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang. Foraging activity studies of 4 colonies of S. geminata were conducted in the field for 24 hours. Foraging activity significantly increased 4 hours before sunset and maximum foraging occurred at midnight until early morning. Three types of proteinacous food; anchovy, meat and egg yolk were tested among the five colonies of S. geminata in the field. The egg yolk was the most preferred food (100%) followed by meat (31%) and anchovy (15%).
Free-living animals must make dietary choices in terms of chemical and physical properties, depending on their digestive physiology and availability of food resources. Here we comprehensively evaluated the dietary choices of proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) consuming young leaves. We analysed the data for leaf toughness and digestibility measured by an in vitro gas production method, in addition to previously reported data on nutrient composition. Leaf toughness, in general, negatively correlated with the crude protein content, one of the most important nutritional factors affecting food selection by leaf-eating primates. This result suggests that leaf toughness assessed by oral sensation might be a proximate cue for its protein content. We confirmed the importance of the leaf chemical properties in terms of preference shown by N. larvatus; leaves with high protein content and low neutral detergent fibre levels were preferred to those of the common plant species. We also found that these preferred leaves were less tough and more digestible than the alternatives. Our in vitro results also suggested that N. larvatus were little affected by secondary plant compounds. However, the spatial distribution pattern of plant species was the strongest factor explaining the selection of the preferred leaf species.
Consumers are reported to be increasingly concerned about their health. Nonetheless, consumers show different attitudes toward food at home and away from home. In particular, consumers tend to shy away from healthy food items when dining on special occasions. This study is the first to look into the number of healthy menu items provided to consumers during dining occasions. The impacts of two independent variables (dining occasion: normal vs. special; number of healthy items: limited vs. extended) on consumers’ dining menu selection was examined among female university students. The results of this study indicate that both dining occasion and the number of healthy items offered could influence consumers’ food selection independently. Although consumers are more likely to choose unhealthy items while dining’on special occasions, offering more healthy items would increase the probability of healthy eating. This study also offers some insights into the food categories and cooking methods favored by consumers. Further studies should explore other potential foods that would enhance the selection of healthy options by consumers.
The growth of the Malaysian’s per capita income has generally empowered consumers to have more choices for food, more purchasing power, health consciousness and demand for more nutritional values of their food intake. Motivated by the changes in Malaysian consumer’s food choice, a conjoint analysis was performed to investigate Malaysian consumers’ demand for rice attributes and how much consumers are willing to pay for the demanded attribute. A conjoint analysis is a method used in identifying and understanding the combined effects of product attributes on preferences for a product or service. In conjoint analysis, utility is the conceptual basis for assessing the value of a product or service, where individuals make decisions between bundles of products based on their budget constraints. The findings suggested that the most important attribute for rice was food safety, followed by taste and size of grain. Consumers were also willing to pay premium prices for the demanded attributes. The findings would have positive implications for the agrifood industry if it responds effectively to translate into business opportunities to these changes.
This study was carried out to determine the influences of providing nutrition information
on fast food restaurant menus, especially among Malaysian undergraduates, who often eat
outside the campus during the semester. A validated questionnaire, adapted from previous
studies was used to determine the general perception of nutrition information and nutrient
intake when eating at fast food restaurants. A total of 185 undergraduates from three
different schools participated - medical sciences (n=54, 29.2%), dentistry, (n=54, 29.2%),
health sciences (n= 77, 41.6%) in a university. In general, the majority of the
undergraduates ate fast food at least once a week (n= 105, 56.8%) and most of them
preferred to eat outside on weekends (n=156, 84.3%). Majority perceived that it was
important to provide nutrition information at fast food restaurant (n=183, 98.9%). The
mean for calorie, fat and sodium composition of their food choices were significantly
different between before and after providing nutrition information of food items that they
intended to purchase (p
Low vegetable consumption in children is always a matter of concern. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of multiple exposures on acceptance of a test vegetable among preschoolers aged 6 years.
Mongolia is experiencing changes in its unique nomadic lifestyle and dietary habits in the last two decades with accompanying increase in obesity rate. The dietary pattern approach, which investigates the overall diet in relation to obesity risks, has become appealing in nutrition epidemiology. The aim of this study was to identify major dietary patterns of the Mongolian adults in relation to the risk of having obesity. Dietary intake of a total 418 adults aged ? 25 years was assessed by using a food frequency questionnaire with 68 items. An exploratory factor analysis resulted in three dietary patterns: transitional high in processed meat and potato, traditional rich in whole milk, fats and oils and healthy with greater intake of whole grains, mixed vegetables and fruits. Individuals in the upper quintile of the transitional pattern had significantly greater risk of obesity (BMI > or =25 kg/m2: OR=2.47; 95% CI=1.04-5.86) while subjects in the highest quintile of the healthy dietary pattern were found to have significantly decreased risk of obesity (OR: 0.49; 95% CI=0.25-0.95). Men in the highest quintile of the transitional pattern had greater risk of abdominal obesity WC > or =90 cm: OR= 4.08; 95% CI=1.11-14.97) than those in the lowest quintile. Women in the top quintile of the traditional pattern had a greater odds of having abdominal obesity (WC > or =80 cm: OR=4.59; 95% CI=1.58-13.30) than those in the lowest quintile. The study suggests that public health efforts be targeted at adults in Mongolia to address the undesirable aspects of the transitional and the traditional dietary patterns.
Activities that engage young children with the sensory properties of foods are popular with nursery schools, despite the lack of evidence for their efficacy in increasing children's consumption of healthy foods. This study provides the first empirical exploration of the effectiveness of a non-taste sensory activity program in a nursery school setting. Ninety-two children aged between 12 and 36 months were allocated either to an intervention group, who took part in looking, listening, feeling and smelling activities with unusual fruits and vegetables every day for 4 weeks, or to a non-intervention control group. In a subsequent mealtime taste test, children touched and tasted more of the vegetables to which they had been familiarized in their playtime activities than of a matched set of non-exposed foods. The results demonstrate that hands-on activities with unfamiliar fruits and vegetables can enhance children's willingness to taste these foods, and confirm the potential for such activities to support healthy eating initiatives.
Diet and sugar eating habits, in particular sweet preference levels, are gradually nurtured over time by culturally accepted dietary norms. The dietary habits of Malaysia's three main ethnic groups are distinctively different from each other and expectedly, many studies have discovered significant ethnic variations in caries experience. In order to guide further research work into the causes of these variations, this pilot study was designed to establish whether ethnic variations exist in sweet preference levels. This study found that although the difference in sweet preference between boys and girls in this sample was not statistically significant, the ethnic variation was statistically significant. The implications of this study and suggestions for further research in this field are discussed.
Taking into account how people value the healthiness and tastiness of food at both the behavioral and brain levels may help to better understand and address overweight and obesity-related issues. Here, we investigate whether brain activity in those areas involved in self-control may increase significantly when individuals with a high body-mass index (BMI) focus their attention on the taste rather than on the health benefits related to healthy food choices. Under such conditions, BMI is positively correlated with both the neural responses to healthy food choices in those brain areas associated with gustation (insula), reward value (orbitofrontal cortex), and self-control (inferior frontal gyrus), and with the percent of healthy food choices. By contrast, when attention is directed towards health benefits, BMI is negatively correlated with neural activity in gustatory and reward-related brain areas (insula, inferior frontal operculum). Taken together, these findings suggest that those individuals with a high BMI do not necessarily have reduced capacities for self-control but that they may be facilitated by external cues that direct their attention toward the tastiness of healthy food. Thus, promoting the taste of healthy food in communication campaigns and/or food packaging may lead to more successful self-control and healthy food behaviors for consumers with a higher BMI, an issue which needs to be further researched.
A study was undertaken in FELDA (Federal Land Development Authority) resettlement scheme areas in Pahang, Malaysia, to determine the effectiveness of group dietary counselling in motivating diabetic patients to achieve good dietary habits, and weight and diabetes control. Sixty-one non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) patients were randomly assigned to either the experimental or control group. The experimental group received six sessions of group dietary counselling over 5 months and the control group received mass media diabetes-educational program during the same period. The one hour group dietary counselling sessions discussed general knowledge of diabetes, food groups for meal planning, the importance of dietary fibre-rich foods, types of fat in food, exercise and weight control. The experimental group met monthly with a dietitian as a counsellor. Effectiveness was assessed by improvement in food choice, and decline in percentage glycated haemoglobin (total HbA1) or body mass index (BMI). Measurements were made at a baseline visit, every two months during the six month program, and six months afterwards. Patients in the experimental group improved their food choices, resulting in a healthier diet high in unrefined carbohydrates and dietary fibre rich foods, and low in fat. There were significant reductions of their percentage total HbA1 levels and BMI following the counselling sessions, which decreased further six months after the program compared with patients in the control group. Thus group dietary counselling is effective in motivating NIDDM patients to achieve better food choice, and related weight and glycaemic control in a Malaysian setting.