You have probably found yourself eating more when hearing something bad. A new study says that economic crisis, political instability and other harsh news on TV may cause high-calorie food choices and eating more.
You might consider switching the channel or pressing the mute button during the news on the TV. Researchers at the University of Miami say people eat more when they hear about global political or economic apocalyptic news. It seems that during a recession, for example, we not only eat larger amounts of food, but we are looking for high-calorie meals. The reason for this is our survival instinct, driving us to seek foods that will keep us satisfied for a longer period of time.
The research, planned for publishing in Psychological Science next month, included several studies and experiments. In the first one, researchers told the participants they were about to join a taste test for a new kind of M&M candies. Before this test, the researchers show the people posters of either neutral sentences, or messages about adversity and crisis. Then, the participants were given two bowls of candies – one low-calorie, and the other high-calorie. In fact, the two types were exactly the same.
The results showed that people who saw the bad news ate nearly 70 percent more of the supposedly high-calorie chocolates than the low-calorie ones. The other group who saw neutral messages ate averagely the same amount of the two types. The survival instinct made them reach for more and higher-calorie chocolates in the hope that if times got tough, they would have something to live off. Bad news, according to the researchers, can create a false perception that we have scarce resources driving us to find various ways to ensure our future. In this context, this means eating larger amounts of higher-calorie foods.
The second study showed that using, as researchers called them, “trigger words” such as poverty, survival, deprivation and others, had similar effect. Participants who heard such words, even without a whole message, ate approximately 40% more than participants who heard neutral words.
According to the scientists at the University of Miami, simply turning off the news won’t work if we try to lose weight, or at least keep a balanced diet. We should be aware of the subconscious influence of news, messages, and even simple words.