Universal public nutrition advice, such as “Eat more whole grains,” appear to be more effective at improving dietary habits than very specific advice tailored to individual needs. That’s according to an investigation in the European Economic Review.

Study participants were given a set budget to buy groceries. Those who received generic health information (applicable to society as a whole) typically filled their food baskets with more healthful items, less saturated fat and less total fat than those who received either tailored nutrition advice to help them prevent disease or no information at all.

According to the researchers, “This can be because the tailored information provided actually gives a better assessment of someone’s health than they may have imagined and therefore inadvertently gives them a free pass to continue to eat unhealthily.”

The finding bodes well for keeping public nutrition and health messages relevant to all as an effective method of improving eating habits.

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