Nav: Home

Lost your appetite? Try inviting yourself to dinner

June 08, 2017

Nagoya, Japan - People rate food as tasting better, and eat more of it, when they eat with company than when they eat alone. This so-called "social facilitation of eating" is a well-established phenomenon; however, exactly what it is about company that produces the effect is not clear.

Now, researchers at Nagoya University have discovered that the same effect can be achieved in individuals eating alone simply by providing a mirror to reflect them while they eat. The study was published in Physiology & Behavior.

"We wanted to find out what the minimum requirement is for the social facilitation of eating," lead author Ryuzaburo Nakata says. "Does another person have to actually be physically present, or is information suggesting the presence of others sufficient?" The researchers found that people eating alone reported food as tasting better, and ate more of it, when they could see themselves reflected in a mirror, compared with when they ate in front of a monitor displaying an image of a wall.

The research team initially worked with a group of older adult volunteers. Approaches to enhance enjoyment of food in people eating without company are particularly relevant for elderly people, because research has shown that many frequently eat alone. However, when the team repeated the experiment with young adult volunteers, they observed the same "social" facilitation of eating when a mirror was present, suggesting that the effect is not limited to older people.

In a further experiment, when the researchers replaced the mirror with photos of the volunteers eating, they discovered that the volunteers still experienced an increase in the appeal of food and ate more. Thus, perhaps surprisingly, a static image of a person eating seems sufficient to produce the "social" facilitation of eating.

"Studies have shown that for older adults, enjoying food is associated with quality of life, and frequently eating alone is associated with depression and loss of appetite," corresponding author Nobuyuki Kawai says. "Our findings therefore suggest a possible approach to improving the appeal of food, and quality of life, for older people who do not have company when they eat--for example, those who have suffered loss or are far away from their loved ones."
-end-
The article, "The "social" facilitation of eating without the presence of others: Self-reflection on eating makes food taste better and people eat more", was published in Physiology & Behavior at DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.05.022.

Nagoya University

Related Eating Articles:

A flip switch for binge-eating?
Researchers have identified a subgroup of neurons in the mouse brain that, upon activation, immediately prompt binge-like eating.
Stop eating! You are full
A novel role as appetite suppressant for BH4, a well-known enzyme cofactor.
How eating less can slow the aging process
New research shows why calorie restriction made mice live longer and healthier lives.
A way out of the junk-food eating cycle
Context can lead to poor food choice and perpetuate junk-food eating.
Social eating leads to overeating, especially among men
Gorging at a holiday meal or friend's BBQ might have more to do with your ego than the quality of the food -- especially if you're a man.
Eating may trigger bacterial therapy
Synthetic bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal system could be triggered by food to produce drugs at the point of need to treat diseases.
Mindfulness key to eating what you want while preventing overeating
Americans spend more than 60 billion dollars a year on weight loss products; two-thirds of these dieters are estimated to regain more weight within four or five years than they originally lost according to the Live Strong Foundation.
The success of the plant-eating dinosaurs
Plant-eating dinosaurs had several bursts of evolution, and these were all kicked off by innovations in their teeth and jaws, new research has found.
No link between eating dinner after 8 p.m. and obesity in children
Researchers at King's College London have found no significant link between eating the evening meal after 8 p.m. and excess weight in children, according to a paper published this month in the British Journal of Nutrition.
The sounds of eating may reduce how much you eat
New doctor's orders: No earbuds, no music, and no watching TV while eating.

Related Eating Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...