The New Instagram Diet? Study Finds Looking at Pictures of Food Helps Curb Appetite

<a href="http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/10/baked-banana-donuts-with-chocolate-hazelnut-glaze/">Baked banana donuts with chocolate hazelnut glaze</a> | Photo by Linda Ly
Baked banana donuts with chocolate hazelnut glaze | Photo by Linda Ly

First there's the picture of what you made for breakfast ... then pictures of your latest food truck obsession ... then pictures of the martini you had at happy hour. The phenomenon might be a form of social media narcissism, but according to a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, it could actually be a diet-friendly form of narcissism.

Marketing researchers at Brigham Young University found that as people were repeatedly shown pictures of food, they became more satiated and less interested in eating the same kind of foods. Turns out, looking at your friend's food-centric Instagram feed (or the like) can spoil your appetite "by making you feel like you've already experienced eating that food," according to the researchers.

"In a way, you're becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food," said Ryan Elder, one of the study's co-authors. "It's sensory boredom -- you've kind of moved on. You don't want that taste experience anymore."

Story continues below

In the study, 232 subjects looked at pictures of common food items. Half the group was shown only pictures of sweets (such as cookies and chocolates), while the other half was shown only pictures of salty foods (such as chips and pretzels). Afterward, both groups were given salted peanuts as a snack and asked to rate how much they enjoyed the snack.

The group that viewed the salty foods was found to enjoy the peanuts less, even though the participants never looked at pictures of peanuts. In their minds (and their stomachs), they had already consumed all the salt they could handle.

So what can we deduce from this study? Don't look at too many pictures of food before you eat. Or, maybe look at hashtag #sweets if you have a weakness for dessert and don't want to binge!

Want recipes and food news emailed directly to you? Sign up for the new Food newsletter here!


We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading