How Instagram pictures can decrease your appetite

Published: Friday, Oct. 4 2013 12:35 p.m. MDT

Seem to have lost your appetite? Looking at too many Instagram food images may have something to do with that. A BYU study found a connection between viewing too many food images and a decreased desire to eat certain foods “by making you feel like you’ve already experienced eating that food,” according to the BYU article, “How Instagram can ruin your dinner.”

“In a way, you’re becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food,” said Ryan Elder, the study co-author and BYU professor in the article. “It’s sensory boredom — you’ve kind of moved on. You don’t want that taste experience anymore.”

Elder and Jeff Larson, a fellow BYU marketing professor and co-author, conducted their studies with 232 people who looked at and rated food images on how appetizing they looked.

Half of the participants looked at salty foods and the other half looked at sweet foods. When they finished looking at the pictures, the participants were offered peanuts to eat. Those who looked at salty foods in the picture evaluations reported less enjoyment in eating the peanuts, even though they did not see any peanuts in the pictures. The article said the participants had already saturated their senses to the salty experience by the time they were eating the peanuts.

“If you want to enjoy your food consumption experience, avoid looking at too many pictures of food,” Larson said. “Even I felt a little sick to my stomach during the study after looking at all the sweet pictures we had.”

Larson also suggested that someone could use these findings to their advantage. He suggested that people who have a weakness for a certain food could look at numerous pictures of that food to decrease their cravings for it.

But the loss in appetite by looking at food images does not happen by a casual approach.

“You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects,” Elder said in the article. “It’s not like if you look at something two or three times you’ll get that satiated effect.”

Read more about the BYU study on BYU News.

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