FML — Even Just Looking at Food on Instagram Could Be Unhealthy for Us


This might not be breaking news. But it certainly impacts pretty much every day of our lives.

Indulging in our friends' (er, Instagram stalking victims') brunch-filled Instagram feeds on a Sunday afternoon can feel like a far healthier alternative to actually partaking in those caloric brunches. But a recent scientific paper from the journal Brain and Cognition that's been grabbing attention is here to ruin it all: Even looking at #FoodPorn can have an unhealthy effect on how we eat.

Exposure to appetizing pictures of food, the authors note, is proven to prompt an array of physiological, neural and behavioral responses. Among those behavioral responses?

"The pervasive visual exposure to food has already been shown to exert an essential role in terms of consumption behaviors," the paper's authors, who reviewed dozens of past studies and research papers, wrote.


That doesn't necessarily mean that looking at food pics always leads to weight gain. But when it comes to the possible link, study author Charles Spence told Mic via email, "It is too early to say, but the emerging neuroscience evidence is definitely pointing in that direction."

He added, "Certainly our self-constraint resources seem to be exhausted by seeing too much delicious food."


We see evidence of this, researchers have found, in how people react to watching cooking shows on TV and ood commercials. Watching a food ad on TV increases our desire for that food, "hence increasing their consumption of whatever food happens to be within reach," the authors wrote. 

Earlier this year, a study in the appropriately named journal Appetite found that people who watch cooking shows are at higher risk for weight gain — and the effect from TV was stronger than, say, talking to friends for cooking inspiration.

In short, it's all about the images, specifically the yummy-looking ones. Appealing food, the paper's authors note, is a "powerful cue" for the brain, setting off various cognitive and psychological responses — including upping the risky-sounding "reward responsiveness" — that can influence our subsequent behavior. 

That might be even more acute with Instagram photos specifically, suggested Spence. "In a way, these images and their ubiquity force chefs to think more and more about plating for the eye, which in turn encourages more and more people to take pictures, which..."

A vicious Insta-spiral.

That said, Instagramming our food in the first place could make it taste better, a scientific study from 2013 suggested, according to the Huffington Post. So if you're scrolling through everyone else's brunch pics and getting hungry, might as well snap a pic of the snack you lunge for before eating it. 

The above photos should provide some inspiration. Sorry/you're welcome.

h/t Eater