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Junk Food Is Two Times More Distracting Than Healthy Food

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Melting ice cream cone

That the average person has an implicit bias for fatty, sugary foods is nothing new, but did you know that images of junk food are almost twice as distracting as those of health food?

That’s what a new Johns Hopkins University study published online by the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review found at least, confirming the old adage that you shouldn’t grocery shop hungry.

Led by Corbin A. Cunningham, Distinguished Science of Learning Fellow in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Howard Egeth, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, the team of researchers first created a complicated computer task that rendered food irrelevant and required a group of participants to complete the task as quickly as possible. As the participants worked diligently, pictures of high-fat, high-calorie foods, healthy foods, or non-food items flashed in the periphery of the screen for only 125 milliseconds, which is too quick for people to fully realize what they just saw.

While all the pictures distracted people from the task, it was things like doughnuts, potato chips, cheese and candy that were found to be most the distracting — twice as distracting, in fact. The healthy food pictures — carrots, apples and salads, etc. — were no more distracting to people than non-foods like bicycles, lava lamps and footballs.

Junk food distracting

Egeth noted in a Johns Hopkins University article:

“We wanted to see if pictures of food, particularly high-fat, high-calorie food, would be a distraction for people engaged in a complicated task, so we showed them carrots and apples, and it slowed them down. We showed them bicycles and thumb tacks, and it slowed them down. But when we showed them chocolate cake and hot dogs, these things slowed them down about twice as much.”

To make things more interesting, the researchers then recreated the experiment, this time involving a new group of participants that were given two fun-sized candy bars to eat before starting the computer work. What they found surprised them — after eating the chocolate, people weren’t distracted by the high-fat, high-calorie food images any more than by healthy foods or other pictures.

One wonders if less chocolate or even other snacks would have the same effect. Egeth added:

“I assume it was because it was a delicious, high-fat, chocolatey snack. But what if we gave them an apple? What if we gave them a zero-calorie soda? What if we told the subjects they’d get money if they performed the task quickly, which would be a real incentive not to get distracted. Could junk food pictures override even that?”

According to Cunningham, the results demonstrate that even when food is entirely irrelevant, and even when people think they’re working hard and concentrating, food, especially junk food, has the power to sneak in and grab our attention — at least until we eat a little of it.

Are you surprised by the studies findings? Let us know in the comments below.

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Food Research

Over 4 In 10 Americans Open To Trying Cannabis-Enhanced Foods

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Cannabis Edibles Foods

More than 40 percent of North American consumers are willing to try foods made with cannabis recreationally if available.

A survey of 1,000 Americans and 1,000 Canadians carried out by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney highlights the growing interest in cannabis-infused food and drinks.

In the survey, participants were asked which cannabis-containing products they or someone they know have tried in areas including food, smoking, vaping and beverages. Approximately 58% said yes for food, 12% for alcohol and 10% for nonalcoholic drinks such as juice, water, tea or coffee.

The results were echoed by an earlier study by Dalhousie University, which found that 46 per cent of Canadians said they would try cannabis-infused food products if they became available on the market. A 2017 Gallup poll showed that 64 per cent of Americans support legalization.

Over 85 percent of those surveyed said they would have an improved or neutral perception of their favorite brand if it were to launch a product containing cannabis, indicating that companies introducing products with cannabis ingredients would see an improvement in public perception.

Randy Burt, a partner in A.T. Kearney’s consumer and retail practice, stated:

“The survey clearly demonstrates the viability of the market for cannabis across multiple consumer segments – CPGs and retailers focused on health and wellness, snacking, functional food and beverage, and beverage alcohol need to have a perspective on how they will approach the cannabis opportunity.”

Interestingly, consumers expressed more willingness to try candy, chocolate snacks and packaged foods than non-alcoholic or alcoholic drinks; yet, it’s the beverage sector, especially beer, that has been the most aggressive in investing and preparing for a cannabis future.

Concerns over more consumers turning to marijuana instead alcohol for relaxation is perhaps the driving force behind the push.

Canada legalized marijuana on October 17, 2018, while ten U.S. states have legalized the psychoactive drug for recreational use.

Judging by current trends, America might be at the tipping point on legalizing cannabis at the federal level, which could open up additional markets for marijuana-related products.

Like it or not, the future is looks bright for the cannabis industry.

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Diet & Health

Science Has Found The Best Way To Wash Pesticides Off Apples

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Apple on tree

Polishing an apple with your shirt might get rid of some dust and dirt, but removing the pesticides will require a little more work.

New research has found that washing apples with baking soda, the common yet miraculous household product, could be all you need to eliminate most of the residues on the surface of apples and other fruits.

Pesticides have long been used to increase crop yield, but rising concerns over their adverse effect on human health has many people talking. While the exact effects depend on the type of pesticides and the amount eaten, the World Health Organization says that certain pesticides could harm the developing nervous systems of fetuses and children.

A growing number of people have opted for organic food as way of avoiding the chemicals, but organic food usually command a price premium and there is no guarantee that pesticides were used. In fact, the organic, naturally-occurring pesticides that some organic farms use aren’t necessarily safer.

Washing has been and remains the standard practice used by both consumers and the food industry to remove pesticides, but some of the plant-protecting compounds that get absorbed by the skin of fruits and vegetables might be more resilient to current cleaning methods. To find the best method, Lili He, Assistant Professor at the ‎University of Massachusetts Amherst, and colleagues conducted a study in which they applied two common pesticides — the fungicide thiabendazole, which past research has shown can penetrate apple peels, and the insecticide phosmet — to organic Gala apples and then washed apples with three different liquids: tap water, a 1 percent baking soda/water solution, and a U.S.-EPA-approved commercial bleach solution often used on produce.

The baking soda solution proved the most effective at removing pesticides, eliminating 80 percent of the thiabendazole and 96 percent of the phosmet, respectively, after 12 and 15 minutes of the fruits being soaked. Plain tap water and the bleach solution were far less effective.

The different percentages are likely due to thiabendezole’s greater absorption into the apple. Mapping images showed that thiabendazole had penetrated up to 80 micrometers deep into the apples, while phosmet was detected at a depth of only 20 micrometers.

So, there you have it, if washing is your preferred method of removing pesticides off your fruits and vegetables, using a baking soda solution is the way to go. If all other options are to be considered, then peeling your produce is probably your best bet.

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Diet & Health

You Binge Eat Because You’re Sleep-Deprived

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Woman caught eating food

There have been many studies correlating sleep deprivation with a wide range of health risks, including decrease in alertness and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. But what about a possible link with food cravings?

Researchers have long known that lack of sleep is associated with binge eating or just plain eating uncontrollably whenever and wherever, but a new study published in online journal Sleep suggests that the same chemical mechanism behind the munchies might be why sleep-deprived people not only feel hungrier, but also become buckle in the face of a big chocolate bar.

The study involved 14 volunteers aged 18 to 30, all of whom were first given four nights of either normal (8.5 hours) or interrupted sleep (4.5 hours) and then two meals and unrestricted access to all kind of snacks — both healthy (e.g., fruit and yogurt) and less-healthy options (e.g., chips and cake).

When the researchers monitored their endocannabinoid (eCB) levels, they found that those participants who had been sleep-deprived reported feeling hungrier and tended to eat the less-healthy snacks.

Moreover, they eat nearly double the fat and protein of the well-rested participants and exhibited an exaggerated cycle in their endocannabinoid levels, with an especially high level in the afternoon — around the same time they reported feeling the hungriest.

Endocannabinoids are chemicals that our bodies naturally create to play a part in such physiological processes as appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. They also to activate the same receptors that get people high from consuming marijuana, explaining the temptation for food stemming from sleep deprivation.

Have you ever felt so tired as to almost feel high? Well, this might be the reason…

Scientists hope these findings will lead to further scientific discoveries on food cravings that would aid in the treatment and control of binge eating.

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