'Tough times prompt people to seek rich foods'

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 23, 2013 08:20 hrs

Washington, Jan 23 (IANS) Tough times prompt people to seek solace in high-calorie foods that will keep them satisfied longer, says a new research.

A "live for today" impulse triggers people into consuming nearly 40 percent more food than when compared to a control group which does not turn to rich foods, say researchers.

"The findings... 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," said Juliano Laran, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Miami.

"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," adds Laran from the Miami School of Business Administration, who co-authored the study with doctoral student Anthony Salerno.

When a group of people was primed with "tough times" messages and then told the food they were sampling was of low calorific value, they consumed roughly 25 percent less of the food, the journal Psychological Science reports.

The researchers said this is because if people perceive that food resources are scarce, they place a higher value on food with more calories, according to a Miami statement.

Half the participants were given a bowl of the new candy and were told that the secret ingredient was a new, high-calorie chocolate. The other half of the participants also received a bowl of M&Ms but were told the new chocolate was low-calorie.

All participants were told that they could sample the product in order to complete a taste test evaluation form. In reality, there was no difference in the M&Ms (colourful button-shaped candies) that the two groups were given to taste.

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," said Laran.

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