Looking At Food On Instagram Could Be Making You Put On Weight, Study Suggests

20/10/2015 17:38 | Updated 20 October 2015

With almost 70 million images tagged #FoodPorn on Instagram, you don't have to look far to gaze at glorious grub in 2015.

But researchers have suggested looking at digital images of food may contribute to us putting on weight.

A new review of studies in the journal Brain and Cognition suggests "regular exposure to virtual foods" might be "exacerbating our physiological hunger way too often".

In other words, seeing tasty treats on apps like Instagram may fool us into thinking we're hungry. This in turn can cause us to overeat.

The research, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, analysed data from dozens of studies concerning our eating habits.

"It is undoubtedly the case that the food landscapes inhabited by those of us living in the western world today are very different from those that our ancestors had to deal with," the study states.

It goes on to explain that the human brain evolved during a period when food was much scarcer than it is now in the western world.

As a result, our brains learned to enjoy seeing food and feel hungry at the sight of it, as viewing food would likely precede consumption.

This, the researchers suggest, may be why we also enjoy seeing images of food on Instagram and TV.

A photo posted by Pure Calmness (@calmnesess) on

It is already well-documented that food advertising increases our desire for food, but the researchers behind the latest study have warned that "digital grazing" is now occurring on more platforms than ever before.

"Our suggestion here is that the regular exposure to virtual foods nowadays, and the array of neural, physiological, and behavioural responses linked to it, might be exacerbating our physiological hunger way too often," the study adds.

"Such visual hunger is presumably also part of the reason why various food media have become increasingly successful in this, the digital age."

The study authors have called for more research to be conducted around the ways we now see food, saying: "Given the current obesity crisis, it would seem advisable to pay particular attention to any environmental factor that may influence our relation to food, and potentially sensitise the brain to food stimuli."


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