In a recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Miami, they found that when an individual has a perception of “tough times”, meaning mostly of economic insecurity, they tend to indulge on higher-calorie foods that will keep them satisfied longer.
They found that when people hear phrases such as “live for today” or pictures relating to unsettling news, this causes them to consume 40 percent more food compared to people exposed to neutral words, phrases, and pictures.
According to the investigators people behave this way because they sense that food resources are limited, so food with more calories, they place a higher value on. In one study, researchers had participants taste test a new kind of M&M and half of them were given a bowl of the candy and were told that the secret ingredient was a new, high-calorie chocolate. The other group of participants in the study was also given a bowl of M&Ms but was told the new chocolate was low-calorie. Both groups were told to taste test the M&Ms in order to fill out an evaluation form for the new product. There was no difference in the two bowls of M&Ms.
After the “evaluation” the researchers examined how much of the product participants consumed after they were exposed to posters containing either sentences related to struggle and misfortune or ones related to neutrality and contentedness. In conclusion, the participants who were subconsciously informed to think about struggle and misfortune ate about 70 percent more of the “higher-calorie” candy vs. the “lower-calorie” option, whereas, those subconsciously clued in with neutral and content related words did not considerably differ in the amount of M&M’s they consumed.
“The findings of this study come at a time when our country is slowly recovering from the onslaught of negative presidential campaign ads chalked with topics such as the weak economy, gun violence, war, deep political divides, just to name a few problem areas. 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,” says Juliano Laran, Ph.D., an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Miami.
With our country and its citizens in such economic struggle right now, it is very evident that there misfortune is driving people to eat more and subsequently become obese. Unfortunately, not much can be done to change our economic situation from an individual’s stand point but it can most certainly help to not watch news that might get you down.
- “Going Through Tough Times Spurs Consumption Of More High-Calorie Foods, Study Suggests.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 27 Jan. 2013. Web. 7 Feb. 2013.