Looking at food photos on Instagram can actually hurt your appetite, says study

Daniel Bean
Yahoo NewsOctober 7, 2013


It turns out that Instagramming your dinner could have consequences beyond annoying the people at your table.

A new study out of Brigham Young University shows that looking at too many food-themed pictures could actually decease your appetite. And let's be honest, is it really possible for any one of us to look through our Instagram feeds right now without stumbling on at least one filtered photo of someone's delicious meal?


For background: Querying #bacon right now on Instagram will yield 1,438,318 posts, #vegan 1,840,576 and #lunch 7,588,896.



“It’s sensory boredom," study co-author and BYU marketing professor Ryan Elder told a BYU publication. “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.”

The study involved 232 participants viewing and rating pictures of food. Half looked at sweet foods like cake and truffles, and the other half looked at salty foods like french fries and pretzels. Afterward, the subjects were given snacks and asked to rate them. Those who had viewed pictures of salty foods rated the taste of the salty foods lower, while those who had viewed pictures of sweet foods rated the sweet snacks lower.

According to the research, a level of satiation in the specific sensory experience of saltiness or sweetness can be reached simply by looking at the food, making it less desirable.

“If you want to enjoy your food consumption experience, avoid looking at too many pictures of food,” Jeff Larson, also a study co-author and marketing professor at BYU, told BYU. “Even I felt a little sick to my stomach during the study after looking at all the sweet pictures we had.”

But don't worry, this doesn't mean that simply happening upon a picture of calamari in your Instagram feed will ruin your dinner reservation at the Olive Garden tonight. The professors said that the type of satiation experienced in the study isn't something that can necessarily be reached easily.

“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.”

Great news — unless you have someone in your Instagram feed who's posting thousands of food photos. You know who you are...