Study shows that online food images can ruin appetite for real food

New research has revealed that the recent trend to “share” images of food – even before actually eating the meal - on social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest can actually decrease our enjoyment of the food. This is bad news for those who love to dabble in a bit of “food porn” or particularly for those who have gone so far as to develop food blogs.

The research was carried out in Brigham Young University (BYU) and while many may think that looking at images of food would make you want it more the study actually found that overexposure to images of food can have the effect of reducing enjoyment once the same type of food is put in front of you.

Ryan Elder, an assistant professor of marketing at BYU, said "In a way, you're becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food…It's sensory boredom - you've kind of moved on. You don't want that taste experience anymore."

Elder and another professor, Jeff Larson, co-authored the study with Joseph Redden of the University of Minnesota for the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

In one of the studies carried out, over 200 participants were shown 60 images of food – half sweet food such as cakes and chocolates and the other half salty foods such as crisps and chips. Each participant had to rate how appetising each picture was and finished by eating peanuts. They then had to rate their enjoyment of the peanuts. Those subjected to the salty food images enjoyed the peanuts less than the others – even though peanuts were not a featured image – just other salty food.

The results of this research will be of particular interest to food advertisers who certainly don't want to over expose us to images of their food. They will need to become more creative to avoid turning the public off their products.

Of course this is the exact effect anyone on a diet is looking for. Expose themselves to images of a certain food type enough and make them feel as though they have already enjoyed the experience. With any luck they will not want to eat the food. Anyone want to try looking at a chocolate bar for the next few hours? Let us know if it ruins your enjoyment of it later!

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