Summary: Seeing a picture of the same food multiple times can lead to feelings of fullness. A new study found that participants who saw the same food image 30 times chose smaller portions compared to those who saw the image only three times.

The research is based on basic cognitive theory, which suggests that our cognitive perception greatly affects our appetite. The findings may affect future weight management strategies.

Key facts:

  1. Seeing images of the same food over and over can stimulate feelings of fullness.
  2. Cognitive perception, that is, how we think about food, plays an important role in determining our appetite.
  3. This research may contribute to weight loss strategies, harnessing the power of repetitive food imagery.

Source: Aarhus University

The internet is flooded with images of food: on news pages, social media, and in banner ads everywhere.

Many of the food images are uploaded to sell certain foods. The idea is that pictures on Facebook or Instagram, for example, make us crave McDonalds burgers. In other words, the image stimulates our hunger.

A new study by Aarhus University shows that the images can have exactly the opposite effect. At least if we repeatedly see pictures of the same product.

Many experiments show that if we see the same image more than 30 times, we can feel satisfied. Tjarke Andersen, who recently defended his PhD at the Department of Food Science at Aarhus University, explains further.

Credit: Neuroscience News

“In our experiment, we showed that when participants saw the same picture of food 30 times, they felt more satisfied before they saw the picture. Participants who saw the picture more often chose a smaller portion than those who only saw the picture three times.”

Tricking your mind into full consciousness

It may seem strange when participants feel full without eating anything. But this is really natural, says Tjarke Andersen. The way we think about food has a big impact on our appetite.

Your appetite is more closely related to your cognitive awareness than most of us realize. “The way we think about our food is very important,” he said.

Research shows that if you introduce people to different colors of jelly beans, even though they’ve eaten all they can of the red jelly beans, they still want the yellow ones. Both colors taste exactly the same though.

In brain research, these findings are explained by basic cognitive theory. For example, if you imagine sinking your teeth into a juicy apple, the same parts of your brain will be stimulated as when you took a bite of the apple.

“You get a physiological response to what you think about. That’s why we can feel full without eating anything,” he says.

Great online test

Tjark Andersen and his colleagues aren’t the first to discover that looking at pictures of food makes us feel satisfied. Other research groups have previously shown.

The new study from Aarhus University investigated the number of repetitions required – and the difference in images can reduce feelings of satisfaction.

“We know from previous research that images of different types of food do not have the same effect on satiety. That’s why you can feel full after the main course but still have room for dessert. Sweets are a completely different kind of food,” he says.

To investigate whether the difference in food completely suppresses feelings of satiety, Tjarke Andersson and his colleagues created a series of online experiments. They reached over 1,000 people in their digital experiment.

First they showed a picture of an orange M&Ms. Some participants saw the image three times, others 30 times. The group that saw the most M&M pictures felt fuller afterward, Tjarke Andersen said.

This shows when someone takes a photo of food.
A new study by Aarhus University shows that the images can have exactly the opposite effect. At least if we repeatedly see pictures of the same product. Credit: Neuroscience News

They had to answer between 1 and 10 how many M’s and wives they wanted. The group that saw 30 pictures of orange chocolate chose a smaller amount than the other two groups.

After that, repeat the experiment. This time with M&Ms in different colors. The colors did not change the result.

Finally, they replaced the M&Ms with Skittles. Unlike M&S, Skittles vary in colour.

“If color didn’t play a role, it must have been taste. But here too we did not get any great results. This suggests that more parameters than color and taste need to change before we can see an effect on satisfaction, he said.

It can be used as a weight loss strategy.

Since 1975, the number of obese people worldwide has tripled. According to the World Health Organization, obesity is one of the health problems facing mankind. The reason we become overweight is because we eat too much food and don’t exercise enough.

This is where Tjarke Anderson’s score comes into play. Perhaps they can be used as a way to control appetite, he says.

Imagine if you created an app based on Google search. Let’s say you wanted pizza. You have opened the application. Choose Pizza – and it will show you a bunch of pizza photos, wondering if you’ve eaten them. That way, you’ll feel satisfied and maybe even stop craving pizza.

Perhaps its results can be better used to prevent food from starting. Participants in the study only chose Skittles or M&Ms with less than 50 calories.

If you don’t skip meals altogether, you won’t save many calories. But maybe the method can be used for this. It will be interesting to investigate,” he said.

Social media is full of food.

Tjarke Andersson and many other researchers are studying how food ads on social media affect us, because we are constantly faced with delicious food.

A few years ago, an American research team tried to find out how many ads we come across on average with food when we are on social media. The researchers followed several young people and mapped the content they interacted with.

On average, the youth saw 6.1 food-related posts in 12 hours. Most of the posts were pictures of food — and more than a third were about desserts or other sweet treats.

The internet and especially social media contribute to our obesity. But it can also be a solution.

He only talks about the future.

So nutrition and neuroscience research news

Author: Jeppe Knudsen
Source: Aarhus University
Contact: Jeppe Kyhne Knudsen – Aarhus University
Image: Image credited to Neuroscience News.

Preliminary study: Open Access.
Mindful eating – an examination of priming and emotion-based satisfaction” by Tjarke Andersen et al Appetite


Mindful eating – an examination of priming and emotion-based satisfaction

As obesity becomes a pressing issue, the general public continues to be exposed to more digital food content than ever before.

Several studies have demonstrated a main effect of visual food content, that is, exposure to food cues increases appetite and food intake.

In contrast, some recent studies have shown that frequent consumption of food can facilitate satiety and reduce food intake. Such findings have been considered as possible solutions to excessive food signal exposure.

However, today’s virtually limitless variety of digital feed content can undermine saturation tests. The current work aims to replicate and extend previous findings by introducing within-subject baseline comparisons, disentangling general and (sensory) specific nutritional needs, and considering visual and taste stimulus variability.

Three online studies (n = 1149 sum) of processed food color and taste variation and nonlinear dose response re-examined the conceptual feeding pattern: 3 replicates prepared, 30 replicates satisfied.

Priming appeared specific to the taste of the exposed stimulus, and satisfaction, contrary to previous literature, appeared to be more general. Neither color nor taste differences reliably accounted for either response.

Thus, the results suggest that a more pronounced difference may be required to alter image-induced satiety.

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