Food Porn Is Making You Fat

Because our brain is designed in part to find and forage for food, it may be that visual stimuli occupy a particularly important place in our mental wiring.

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Oct 15 2015, 10:00pm

Photo via Flickr user Michael Saechang

Researchers have a knack for taking the fun out of food.

From diet soda and frozen pizza to the "real" taste of fat, nothing is safe from their academic gaze, and they seem to making a living by bringing to light what we all know deep down inside about our favourite foods—that they make us fat.

But that research is not limited to what goes in our mouths. Apparently, they also want to take the fun out of what goes into our eyes. Namely, the appetizing overlap of food and social media known or "food porn"—to use the parlance of our times.

A new study entitled "Eating with our eyes: From visual hunger to digital satiation" is slated to appear in the British journal Brain and Cognition next month. Among the findings, is a not-so-surprising link between food porn consumption.

READ: Welcome to VICE Eats World: Food Porn From Around the Globe

"The growing obesity crisis is but one of the signs that humankind is not doing such a great job in terms of optimizing the contemporary food landscape," the Oxford research team, headed by Professor Charles Spence, asks in the article. "We wonder whether there aren't other implicit cues in our environments that might be triggering hunger more often than is perhaps good for us."

In other words, because our brain is designed in part to find and forage for food, it may be that visual stimuli occupy a particularly important place in our mental wiring. And because of this evolutionary baggage, the constant bombardment of decadent food pics on social media may actually be creating a nation of food addicts.

"Specifically, we question the impact that our increasing exposure to images of desirable foods (what is often labelled 'food porn', or 'gastroporn') via digital interfaces might be having, and ask whether it might not inadvertently be exacerbating our desire for food (what we call 'visual hunger')," the study says.

READ: Apparently Men's Brains Are Hardwired to Choose Sex Over Food

And social media may not be the only culprit. The researchers theorize that good old-fashioned television may also be contributing to this problem. "It has been suggested that those of us currently living in the Western world are watching more cookery shows on TV than ever before," they write.

"Such food shows often glamorize food without necessarily telling a balanced story when it comes to the societal, health, and environmental consequences of excess consumption. Moreover, the number of hours of TV a person watches is positive correlated with their body-mass index."

The Oxford team even targets one of the oldest forms of media in their assault on food porn. "Books on the art of plating also urge the reader to make it look beautiful."

All of which means that, if you are to take their evolutionary analysis of food and vision seriously, that you have probably put on weight just by being on this website.

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