Imagine that you have guests for dinner. As they arrive, you offer them drinks and a bowl of cashew nuts which, by the way, are extremely tasty. The guests finish the cashews in no time. You bring another bowl. They devour that too. You are worried because: (a) too much of a good thing is not good for health and (b) if your guests keep going with the cashew nuts, would their stomachs still have place for the main course? You decide to quietly take the cashew bowl back to the kitchen. While the guests could have asked you for more cashews, they don’t. They’re probably happy to have the temptation removed. With a nudge in the right direction from you, the guests slip into the default mode of enjoying their drinks and dinner.
This is an instance of how a slight nudge in the right, default mode can help people move in the right direction. People always choose the easier, default mode. The cashew example is a real-life anecdote narrated by Richard Thaler who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in October 2017 for this particular theory often simply referred to ‘the nudge’.
Public health policy makers have made good use of this theory. An example is the ban on smoking at the airports. People, of course, could seek out the little smoking rooms and finally have a cough filled puff amidst a crowded group of cigarette addicts.
However many travellers would slip into the default mode of not smoking at all. Another example is the ‘fat tax’ on junk food, applied by some states of India to make excess calorie consumption a little more difficult. One hopes that more of such healthy, default modes come into being for instance more playgrounds, pavements, tax relief for bicycle buyers, etc.
Speaking of cashew nuts (literally) is important too. Cashew nuts have a lot of fat content, but are also considered to be healthy. Moreover, they have protein, a touch of carbs and some fibre too. They are an example of relatively healthy type of nuts, although almonds are better. It is increasingly apparent that consumption of excess carbohydrate and unhealthy fats is to be avoided. Yet, healthy fats and fibre rich foods are permissible. In this world of ever-changing dietary fads, we seek to bring some balance by demystifying between fact and fiction about Diabetes.
Dr Unnikrishnan AG