Instagram This: Food Photos Are Insta Appetite Killers, Study Finds

Brigham Young University study finds looking at too many photos of food can deter craving

By Timothy Weisberg
|  Thursday, Nov 21, 2013  |  Updated 5:49 AM CDT
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The Craziest Food Heists

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Checking out photos of food before you eat may kill your appetite, a new study has found.

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Hungry? Better not turn to scouring Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest for delicious-looking food photos, researchers say.

Looking at too many pictures of food can make eating less enjoyable, a recent study by Brigham Young University published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found.

Scouring "food porn" on Instagram can oversaturate your cravings, reducing how much pleasure you feel when you actually fulfill your desire for, say, an ice cream sundae, the study found.

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"In a way, you're becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food," said study coauthor and BYU professor Ryan Elder in a press release. "It's sensory boredom – you've kind of moved on. You don't want that taste experience anymore."

In other words, looking at ice cream sundaes all day is going to make the next time you eat one less enjoyable; eating your third, fourth or fifth bite of sundae is going to be less enjoyable than the first.

Elder and coauthor Jeff Larson studied how repeated exposure to food pictures effects the eating experience by asking 232 people to look at and rate pictures of food. Half the participants viewed 60 pictures of sweets like cake and chocolate, and the others looked at pictures of salty foods like chips.

Participants were then asked to eat peanuts and rate how much they enjoyed them. People who viewed the salty food pictures said they had enjoyed eating the salty peanuts less than those who had viewed pictures of sweets.

Even though those people hadn’t actually seen pictures of peanuts, the researchers said, the overexposure to pictures of salty foods had diminished the peanut-munching experience.

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One celebrity who likely doesn't experience this "sensory boredom" is Martha Stewart. Recently, the culinary entreprenuer came under fire for her less-than-appetizing photos of food, notably a wedge salad with russian dressing. Her photos even prompted a Change.org petition begging Stewart to stop documenting her meals.

Luckily, Stewart has a sense of humor about the issue. She tweeted in response: "My lumpy Russian dressing that aroused so much enmity: 1c lemonaise 3 T ketchup 3T wine vinegar 1T honey Dijon salt pepper. Great on iceberg."

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