Importance of Pleasantness and Convenience in Formulating Habits – Pancakes for Lower Cholesterol

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Pleasantness and convenience are important aspects of maintaining habits.

Both of these are what makes a habit easy to follow. One makes you want to do it, and the other makes it easy to start.

One recent medical study on foods demonstrated how ready-to-eat, nice tasting snacks can help individuals add healthy food items into their lives.

Lifestyle modification (such as diet and exercise) comes before medication when it comes to healthcare. However, not all lifestyle interventions are pleasant for all. Some may be unwilling or unable to take drastic changes in their lifestyle.

Here is where ready-to-eat, “hedonically acceptable snacks” (as the study puts it) helps individuals fulfil their diet recommendations.

The study offered participants “oatmeal, pancakes, cranberry bars, chocolate bars, smoothies, and a granola-type offering” (indeed, sounds very pleasant and hedonically acceptable) that were formulated specifically to be healthy.

The base wholefood ingredients (walnuts, almonds, oats, berries, etc.) are noted to be beneficial to cardiovascular health, and must deliver a set amount of fibre, alpha-lipoic acid, phytosterols, antioxidants, and a limited number of calories.

The foods were formulated to be shelf-stable, and in single-serve formats requiring minimal to no preparation (indeed, very convenient).

When the participants (consisting of hyperlipidaemic, high blood cholesterol adults) were asked to eat the foods, almost all of them (95%) stuck with the diet for the duration of the study.

By the end of the study, their LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels decreased by an average of 8.8% (13 mg/dL).

That's huge. That'll reduce risk of heart attack and strokes in the next 5 years by approximately the same percent (8-9%)*.

I think this is a great example of how pleasantness and convenience makes habits easy to start and easy to stick with. It's these small habits that compound over time to change our lives for the better.

See the original study here, by Kopecky et al. on The Journal of Nutrition.

*As an extrapolation from the conclusions of this meta-analysis by Silverman et al. on JAMA.

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