Instagram Pictures Can Eventually Ruin Your Appetite
October 4, 2013

Food Pictures Could Be Harmful To Your Appetite, Researchers Claim

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redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

In the social media age, it is common for people to snap and share photos of tasty-looking culinary creations before dining, but new research from Brigham Young University (BYU) cautions that looking at too many pictures of food could actually make it less enjoyable to eat.

According to study co-author and BYU marketing professor Ryan Elder, the phenomenon is a type of “sensory boredom” and it could cause people inundated with Instagram or Pinterest images to become tired of a particular type of flavor (salads, hamburgers, pasta, etc.) without even consuming the food.

“In a way, you’re becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food… you’ve kind of moved on. You don’t want that taste experience anymore,” he added. He and his colleague Jeff Larson found that this social network over-exposure to food imagery can increase a person’s satiation, or decreasing enjoyment level that comes with repeated consumption.

As part of their research, the investigators recruited 232 individuals to examine and then review photos of food. In one study, half of those people looked at 60 images of sweet foods such as cake and chocolates, while the remaining study participants reviewed 60 pictures of salty snacks such as pretzels, chips and French fries.

“After rating each picture based on how appetizing that food appeared, each participant finished the experiment by eating peanuts, a salty food. Participants then rated how much they enjoyed eating the peanuts,” BYU officials said in a statement Thursday.

“In the end, the people who had looked at the salty foods ended up enjoying the peanuts less, even though they never looked at peanuts, just at other salty foods,” they added. “The researchers say the subjects satiated on the specific sensory experience of saltiness.”

Larson, who along with co-authors Elder and Joseph Redden of the University of Minnesota reported the study’s findings in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, said that people who want to ensure that they enjoy their culinary experience should avoid looking at too many pictures of food.

“Even I felt a little sick to my stomach during the study after looking at all the sweet pictures we had,” he confessed. However, those feelings could also be advantageous, as the BYU professor said that people who have a weakness for unhealthy foods could look at more images of that product to decrease their desire for it.

The investigators said that the effect becomes stronger based on the number of pictures a person views, and that only having a handful of friends who post food photos on social media will likely have little impact. “You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects,” Elder said. “It’s not like if you look at something two or three times you’ll get that satiated effect.”