Tough times make you eat more calories

Because we tend to believe in the food scarcity that adversities bring along, our primal instinct is to go for the more calorific food

Person eating ice cream
We tend to eat more calories by instinct when we perceive times to be tough

Bad news about the economy be a trigger for you to go an a high-calorific binge, according to a new study published in Psychological Science.
The study shows that when people perceive times to be tough, they are likely to go for high-calorie foods that will keep them satisfied longer. When subconsciously primed with such messages, an inclination to “live for today” is generated thereby causing such a person to consume nearly 40 percent more food than when compared to a person primed with neutral words.

Juliano Laran, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Miami School of Business Administration, who conducted the research with doctoral student Anthony Salerno, says “Now that we know this sort of messaging causes people to seek out more calories out of a survival instinct, it would be wise for those looking to kick off a healthier new year to tune out news for a while.”

Additionally, when the same group primed with “tough times” messages was then told the food they were sampling was low-calorie, they consumed roughly 25 percent less of the food. According to the researchers this is because if people perceive food resources to be limited, they place a higher value on food with more calories.

Several experiments were conducted as part of this research. In the first one, the researchers invited study subjects to join in a taste test for a new kind of M&M. Half the participants were given a bowl of the candy and were told that the secret ingredient was a new, high-calorie chocolate. The others were given a bowl of M&Ms but were told the new chocolate was low-calorie. All of the participants were told that they could sample the product in order to complete a taste test evaluation form.

In spite of what the participants were told, both the groups were given the same kind of candies to taste. The researchers were actually measuring amount of food consumed by participants after being exposed to posters containing either neutral sentences or sentences related to struggle and adversity. Those who were subconsciously primed to think about struggle and adversity ate closer to 70 percent more of the “higher-calorie” candy vs. the “lower-calorie” option, while those primed with neutral words did not significantly differ in the amount of M&M’s consumed.

“It is clear from the studies that taste was not what caused the reactions, it was a longing for calories,” continued Laran. “These findings could have positive implications for individuals in the health care field, government campaigns on nutrition, and companies promoting wellness. And, certainly beware of savvy food marketers bearing bad news.”

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