Trust in scientific experts on obesity: Implications for awareness and behavior change

Sara Bleich, Robert Blendon, Alyce Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To explore the relationship between public trust in scientific experts on obesity and public attention to nutrition recommendations, to investigate trust as a predictor of weight-related behaviors, and to identify the sociodemographic characteristics associated with high and low trust in scientific experts on obesity. Research Methods and Procedures: This analysis used survey data from two sources: 1) a 2005 Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Survey (N = 2033), and 2) the 2004 General Social Survey (N = 2812). Five outcome measures were used. Three were used to explore trust as a predictor of attention and weight-related behaviors. Two were used to identify the sociodemographic predictors of trust. Logistic regression analysis was used to model the outcome variables. Results: Trust in scientific experts was the strongest predictor of public attention to nutritional recommendations from scientific experts, but it was not directly related to weight-related behaviors. Public attention was significantly associated with two weight-related behaviors: tracking fruit and vegetable intake and exercise. Women and more educated individuals had significantly higher odds of trusting scientific experts. Characteristics associated with distrust in scientific experts included Hispanic race and older age (over 50). Discussion: Public health experts should work toward building trust as an important step in stemming the obesity epidemic. Further, more research is necessary to better understand the factors driving trust in scientific experts on obesity. A deeper insight in this area will certainly be of great benefit to obesity-related risk communication and potentially lead to positive behavior change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2145-2156
Number of pages12
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Behavioral science
  • Health policy
  • Risk management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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