Researchers at Pennsylvania State University set out to measure positive attitudes to food by means of the Satter Eating Competence Model (scSatter). The findings, published in the September/October issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, indicate that those participants unsatisfied with their weight were 54 percent less likely to be defined as 'eating competent'. The results of the survey could have implications for policies and campaigns to influence the eating habits of consumers who are at a higher risk for heart disease. "We wanted to see if people were at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease if they were not eating competent to begin with," said Barbara Lohse, associate professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University. Eating competence, as it was defined for the study, is the idea that a person is aware and able to balance their hunger, appetite and eating enjoyment with their body's biological tendency to maintain a preferred and stable weight. Ranked as the number one cause of death in many developed countries, the World Health Organization estimates cardiovascular disease takes 17mn lives worldwide every year. These deaths are primarily the result of heart attacks and strokes - the main risk factors of which are: tobacco smoking, lack of physical activity and an unhealthy diet. As part of the study, the Penn State researchers administered an on-line survey to 370 participants and a paper version to another 462 people. "This population was already at high risk due to high levels of LDL - the bad cholesterol - and elevated total cholesterol, but did not have any other type of chronic disease," said Lohse. With an average age of 36.2 years, the respondents did not have an eating disorder, were mostly female, white, educated, overweight, physically active and food secure. The results point to the fact that a controlled enjoyment of food is necessary to maintaining cardiovascular health. In the survey, more units of food consumed from the food like index was associated with a three-fold greater likelihood of eating competency. Eating competency was also related to more positive indicators of health status in the survey results. The Body Mass Index (BMI) of participants was reported to be significantly lower in the higher eating competency tertiles of the study. These respondents self-identified as being physically active, and were shown to have more healthful cardiovascular biomarkers overall. The higher tertiles of eating competency in the survey also had a greater preference for fruits and vegetables. "Given the associated health benefits, education that develops EC [eating competency] appears prudent," wrote the authors. "Current nutrition education efforts focused on nutrient and food selection information have been shown to be ineffective for increasing EC." Source: Lohse, Barbara et al. "Measuring eating competence: psychometric properties and validity of the ecSatter inventory." J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007; 39:S154-S166.