Copyright: Peshkova via Shutterstock

Human nature thwarts wellness

Adopting new approaches to prevent us from contracting chronic diseases is not just a personal challenge

As Easter is looming, some of us already know that eating large amounts of chocolate eggs will be too much of a temptation to resist. Yet, we all intuitively know that too much sugar or chocolate or anything else like processed food, is not exactly healthy. Worse, we probably tell others around us—i.e. children, among others—that this over indulgence is not the way to go. Yet, throughout the year we indulge in even more of these foods, not even under any particular pretext.

This Easter chocolate binge is symptomatic of our approach to health. And to preventing chronic diseases that may affect us later in life. Until we actually see the damage done, we are not going to change. And even then, the way in which the message is delivered also matters, if we want to alter our dietary habits. Indeed, some public health experts have suggested harnessing behavioural sciences, and experimenting with so-called nudging approaches.

Clearly, we are our own worst enemies, when it comes to keeping ourselves in good health and taking preventative steps. The trouble is that only multiple approaches can help. It is partly down to individual change of behaviour, against human nature. But it is also down to the way food manufacturers inform customers about the content of their products. State-level regulations could also have a role to play to limit excessive intake of sugar or trans-fats. This, in turn, could trigger reactions from individuals, who feel that they are under the influence of a nanny state.


The lack of a magic bullet does not lessen the need to find solutions to prevent people from contracting chronic diseases. It does, however, call for greater granularity in understanding why individuals act the way they do. And sometimes this level of clarity can only be gained from analysing hard data, which will make it possible to deduct our health status.

Greater visibility over our personal state of health could therefore come from measuring relevant indicators more systematically. This is where wearable technology comes into play. But this could only begin to constitute a valuable prevention tool, if adequate precautions are put in place to take into account human nature’s need to protect its privacy. Otherwise, some may decide that, on balance, preserving their right to privacy is more important than adopting preventive steps to protect their health.

Featured image credit: Peshkova via Shutterstock

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Sabine Louët

Sabine Louët

Former editor at EuroScientist
Sabine has a passion for all things related to European research. A physicist by training, she has been covering stories in life science, the physical sciences, technology, policy and innovation for the past 20 years. She was previously the news editor at Nature Biotechnology. She was also involved in the creation of AlphaGalileo. She is the Founder of SciencePOD translating complex science and tech concepts into high-quality articles written in simple language.
Sabine Louët

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