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Project Collection "Food, Nutrition and Health with Focus on Eating Together"

A project collection of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This project collection belongs to the section "Health Behavior, Chronic Disease and Health Promotion".

Papers displayed on this page all arise from the same project. Editorial decisions were made independently of project staff and handled by the Editor-in-Chief or qualified Editorial Board members.

Project Leader

Prof. Dr. Agneta Yngve
E-Mail Website
Project Leader
Department of Food Studies, Nutrition and Dietetics, Uppsala University, Box 560, 751 22 Uppsala, Sweden
Interests: nutrition; meal composition; meal assessment
Dr. Nicklas Neuman
E-Mail Website
Project Leader
Department of Food Studies, Nutrition and Dietetics, Uppsala University, Box 560, 751 22 Uppsala, Sweden
Interests: consumption; eating behavior; meal routines; social conventions; sociology of food
Dr. Irja Haapala
E-Mail Website
Project Leader
School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Education, University of Eastern Finland, Savonlinna, Finland
Interests: ageing; sustainability; intergenerational; education; nutritional wellbeing; public health

Project Overview

Dear Colleagues,

The purpose of this Project Collection is to provide an interdisciplinary research overview of commensality. With this overview, we open up possibilities for new ways of understanding the art and level of importance of commensality for socialization and for health and wellbeing, thereby providing a new understanding of meal provisions, restaurant design, home design and city planning for ensuring commensality and improved health as well as quality of life in future foodscapes.

The overall aim of the Collection is to identify and collate perspectives, methods and results from studies of commensality, health and wellbeing, including quality of life, within different disciplines, thus building an interdisciplinary viewpoint for future translational research and practice.

This Project Collection arises from work within an international network of researchers engaged in inter- and multidisciplinary research on the “role of commensality in the present and the past: implications for policy and planning”. Emanating from Uppsala University, the network has grown through national and international collaboration, first nationally with Swedish institutions, the University of Agricultural Sciences and Academy of Culinary Arts and Sciences (Måltidsakademien), then internationally, with the Nordic Association for Food Studies (NAFS), University of Helsinki, University of Eastern Finland, the Institute Paul Bocuse, Lyon, France and the University of Granada, Spain.

The concepts of, and interaction between, commensality, health and wellbeing have been studied within different disciplines in the past, but each would benefit from multidimensional, interdisciplinary analyses and approaches. This, in our view, has become exceedingly topical with unprecedented changes in demographics, sociocultural diversity of dietary habits and differentiation of household compositions across countries cultures and age groups. Moreover, while generational age groups have become equal in size, increased generational interaction may be needed to negotiate individualized risks, such as dietary habits affecting our physical health and environmental sustainability. Simultaneously, however, institution-centered ecosystems (city planning) are keeping generations apart; family meals have gone through a transition in which they are more commonly consumed outside of home. The social implications of meals eaten alone seem to have shifted, with the majority of households having single occupancy in several countries. Food choice, for many, has become a privatized phenomenon with constrained possibilities to choose. We need an increased understanding of commensality, who eats with whom, where, why, how and for how long, and the way in which these meals/eating occasions affect people’s every-day life, health and wellbeing, and their quality of life. Through a developed understanding, we can identify opportunities for social and educational innovation, policy and practice, building on an understanding that stems from current as well as historical research. “Food, Nutrition and Health with Focus on Eating Together” will hopefully be of interest to all engaged in promoting community and personal health.

Prof. Dr. Agneta Yngve
Dr. Nicklas Neuman
Dr. Irja Haapala
Project Leaders

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the collection website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Eating together
  • Commensality
  • Mealtime
  • Nutrition
  • Food sociology
  • Health
  • Wellbeing
  • Generations
  • History
  • Religion
  • Culinary arts
  • Education
  • Dietary guidelines

Published Papers (9 papers)

2021

Article
Intergenerational Commensality: A Critical Discussion on Non-Familial Age Groups Eating Together
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(15), 7905; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18157905 - 26 Jul 2021
Viewed by 587
Abstract
Connecting intergenerational relationships and commensality has been a neglected area in research and conceptual development within both food and life-course studies. This has been especially true of relations beyond the family. Here, public and private settings are explored in order to examine the [...] Read more.
Connecting intergenerational relationships and commensality has been a neglected area in research and conceptual development within both food and life-course studies. This has been especially true of relations beyond the family. Here, public and private settings are explored in order to examine the relationship between eating together and generationally intelligent empathy. This is to help the discovery of spaces where different generations can interact positively around food and mealtimes. Contemporary social and public health challenges include: to adapt to increased longevity and to build solidarity between generations; to repair the relations between generations arising from institutional segregation; and to increase experiences of generational connection and social inclusion. As age-based cohorts are led to see themselves as separate from each other, we must find ways of building and negotiating new complementary roles for different parts of the life-course. Commensality, eating together at the same table provides an important cultural location and opportunity around which complementary understandings between generations may be built. A new framework is proposed to help identify and critically examine the variables underpinning non-familial intergenerational commensal spaces. Full article
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Review
What Is Commensality? A Critical Discussion of an Expanding Research Field
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(12), 6235; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18126235 - 09 Jun 2021
Viewed by 1076
Abstract
Commensality (the act of eating together) is studied in a range of disciplines and often considered important for social communion, order, health and well-being, while simultaneously being understood as in decline (especially the family meal). However, such claims are also contested in various [...] Read more.
Commensality (the act of eating together) is studied in a range of disciplines and often considered important for social communion, order, health and well-being, while simultaneously being understood as in decline (especially the family meal). However, such claims are also contested in various ways. In this paper, we discuss the expanding field of commensality research and critically reflect on the debates surrounding its social functions, including its role in public health. We illuminate the deep social and cultural significance of commensality, through time and space, and conclude that whether or not commensality is the preferred social form of eating for any given individual, it is difficult to escape its sociocultural desirability and idealization. As a cross-cultural phenomenon in both past, present, and future, we suggest that commensality deserves further research. This includes commensality as a research topic in itself and as an entry point to unveil different dimensions of social relations between people, as well as interactions between humans and material objects. Full article
Review
Eating Alone or Together among Community-Living Older People—A Scoping Review
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(7), 3495; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18073495 - 27 Mar 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1292
Abstract
Research on healthy aging commonly concerns problems related to loneliness and food intake. These are not independent aspects of health since eating, beyond its biological necessity, is a central part of social life. This scoping review aimed to map scientific articles on eating [...] Read more.
Research on healthy aging commonly concerns problems related to loneliness and food intake. These are not independent aspects of health since eating, beyond its biological necessity, is a central part of social life. This scoping review aimed to map scientific articles on eating alone or together among community-living older people, and to identify relevant research gaps. Four databases were searched, 989 articles were identified and 98 fulfilled the inclusion criteria. In the first theme, eating alone or together are treated as central topics of interest, isolated from adjoining, broader concepts such as social participation. In the second, eating alone or together are one aspect of the findings, e.g., one of several risk factors for malnutrition. Findings confirm the significance of commensality in older peoples’ life. We recommend future research designs allowing identification of causal relationships, using refined ways of measuring meals alone or together, and qualitative methods adding complexity. Full article
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Review
Beyond the Normative Family Meal Promotion: A Narrative Review of Qualitative Results about Ordinary Domestic Commensality
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(6), 3186; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063186 - 19 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 908
Abstract
There exists a normative representation of family meals in contemporary Western societies which is promoted as imperative through public health programs, larger discourses and by some studies in the nutritional and public health research fields. Family meals, also called domestic commensality, are represented [...] Read more.
There exists a normative representation of family meals in contemporary Western societies which is promoted as imperative through public health programs, larger discourses and by some studies in the nutritional and public health research fields. Family meals, also called domestic commensality, are represented as convivial events and are associated with positive health and wellbeing outcomes but there is minimal evidence to show they are beneficial for family members and it is not known which aspect of the family meal could be responsible for these alleged benefits. This normative family meal image is based on a representation of the family as a peaceful unit exempt from external constraints. This narrative literature review of qualitative studies of family meals seeks to put forward the underlying premises of this representation and compare it with reports about actual practices. The results emphasize that eating together is still practiced and remains valued by family members, which is in contrast to discourses lamenting the decline of the family meal. However, the valorisation and recurrence of family meals depends on class, gender and cultural positions. There is a gap between the norm of healthy or convivial and achievable family meals, which can reinforce the so-called “mental load” and “emotion work” of those in charge of feeding the family and heighten inequalities within the household. In fact, there are many challenges to family meals which originate from external constraints or are inherent aspects of family life. The results from this review suggest that we should focus on family meals by taking into account the food work surrounding it and focussing on the interactional aspects of family meals. Ethnographic methods allow the researcher to observe the diversities and complexities of commensality as well as family dynamics and, in doing so, could provide more realistic representations of eating within the family. Full article
Review
Assessing Time of Eating in Commensality Research
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(6), 2941; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18062941 - 13 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 801
Abstract
Commensal meals seem to be related to a better nutritional and metabolic health as well as an improved quality of life. The aim of this paper was to examine to what extent research was performed using the search term commensality related to assessment [...] Read more.
Commensal meals seem to be related to a better nutritional and metabolic health as well as an improved quality of life. The aim of this paper was to examine to what extent research was performed using the search term commensality related to assessment of timing of meals. A scoping review was performed, where 10 papers were identified as specifically addressing the assessment of timing of commensality of meals. Time use studies, questionnaires, and telephone- and person-to-person interviews were used for assessing meal times in relation to commensality. Four of the studies used a method of time use registration, and six papers used interviews or questionnaires. Common meals with family members were the most common, and dinners late at night were often preferred for commensal activities among the working population. In conclusion, the family meal seemed to be the most important commensal meal. It is clear from the collected papers and from previous systematic reviews that more studies of commensal meals in general and about timing aspects in particular and in relation to nutritional health are essential to provide a solid background of knowledge regarding the importance of timing in relation to commensal meals. Full article
Review
Assessing Commensality in Research
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(5), 2632; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18052632 - 05 Mar 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1069
Abstract
This scoping review focuses on the assessment of commensality in research and attempts to identify used methods for performing research on commensality. It reflects a multidisciplinary research field and draws on findings from Web of Science Core Collection, up to April 2019. The [...] Read more.
This scoping review focuses on the assessment of commensality in research and attempts to identify used methods for performing research on commensality. It reflects a multidisciplinary research field and draws on findings from Web of Science Core Collection, up to April 2019. The empirical material consisted of 61 studies, whereof most were qualitative research, and some were of quantitative character, including very few dietary surveys. The findings show nine papers categorized as using quantitative approaches, 52 papers were categorized as qualitative. The results show a wide variety of different ways to try to find and understand how commensality can be understood and identified. There seems to be a shift in the very concept of commensality as well as some variations around the concept. This paper argues the need to further investigate the importance of commensality for health and wellbeing, as well as the need to gather data on health and health-related behaviors, living conditions and sociodemographic data in parallel. The review shows the broad-ranging areas where commensality is researched, from cultural and historical areas to ethnographic or anthropological areas over to dietary assessment. To complement large dietary surveys with methods of assessing who you are eating with in what environment should be a simple way to further our knowledge on the circumstances of meal intake and the importance of commensality. To add 24-h dietary recall to any study of commensality is another way of identifying the importance of commensality for dietary quality. The use of mixed methods research was encouraged by several authors as a good way forward in the assessment of commensality and its importance. Full article
Opinion
Looking for Commensality: On Culture, Health, Heritage, and the Mediterranean Diet
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(5), 2605; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18052605 - 05 Mar 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1003
Abstract
The concept of the Mediterranean Diet has substantially evolved in the last decade and a half. From a model focused uniquely on nutrition and public health, in recent years, and after its registration as Intangible Heritage of the Humanity by the United Nations [...] Read more.
The concept of the Mediterranean Diet has substantially evolved in the last decade and a half. From a model focused uniquely on nutrition and public health, in recent years, and after its registration as Intangible Heritage of the Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), its conception incorporated important elements related to society, culture, and sustainability. In this regard, the use of concepts such as commensality (or conviviality around food, or eating together), linked to a more cultural vision of food, began to be one object of attention. The aim of this article is to reflect on the role of these “new” elements regarding the actual definitions of the Mediterranean diet and, particularly, its relationship with other significant discourses inside this concept, as the preponderant of health, or the emergence of sustainability. Full article
Editorial
The Project Collection Food, Nutrition and Health, with a Focus on Eating Together
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(4), 1572; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18041572 - 07 Feb 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1105
Abstract
Papers in this project collection arise from international networking on interdisciplinary research into commensality [...] Full article
Article
A Proposed Theoretical Model for Sustainable and Safe Commensality among Older Adults
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(3), 1172; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18031172 - 28 Jan 2021
Viewed by 1103
Abstract
Eating together at the same table, i.e., commensality, is an old phenomenon among humans. Today, there is a relatively high number of people living in single households eating most meals on their own. Among adults aged 65+ years, both malnutrition and non-communicable diseases [...] Read more.
Eating together at the same table, i.e., commensality, is an old phenomenon among humans. Today, there is a relatively high number of people living in single households eating most meals on their own. Among adults aged 65+ years, both malnutrition and non-communicable diseases are common. These circumstances, as well as foodborne illnesses, cause health problems for the individual, as well as high societal costs. In older adults, several external factors might impact on commensality, such as living arrangements, health status, and cooking competence. Improved knowledge regarding healthy eating and food handling may improve attitudes and behaviors in relation to food safety and dietary intake. Further, commensality has been shown to influence dietary intake in multiple ways. Community-organized activities, e.g., Food Classes for Older Adults (FCOA), may lead to sustainable commensality. Participating in health-promoting activities can contribute to improved health outcomes and improved social interaction among older adults. The objective of this study was to propose a theoretical model to inspire and create networks for sustainable commensality among older adults. The model could serve as a conceptual framework when implementing FCOA in communities and research. Outcomes could be measured by investigating the frequency of commensality, health effects, and well-being. Full article
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