# American Institute of Mathematical Sciences

2016, 13(4): 841-855. doi: 10.3934/mbe.2016020

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

 1 Simon A Levin Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States, United States 2 Mathematics Department, Faculty of Science, Mansoura University, Mansoura, Egypt 3 Conditioned Feeding Lab, Behavioral Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States, United States

Received  December 2015 Revised  December 2015 Published  May 2016

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.
Citation: Anarina L. Murillo, Muntaser Safan, Carlos Castillo-Chavez, Elizabeth D. Capaldi Phillips, Devina Wadhera. Modeling eating behaviors: The role of environment and positive food association learning via a Ratatouille effect. Mathematical Biosciences & Engineering, 2016, 13 (4) : 841-855. doi: 10.3934/mbe.2016020
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