Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Looking at a Photo of Pizza Could Make Food Taste Better...

By Magdeline Lum

... and eating cake at breakfast can help you keep weight off.

It is not much of a surprise that looking at images of high calorie foods like pizza and hamburgers may make you crave these foods. A small study led by Johannes le Coutre of the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland has found that if you eat one type of food while looking at photos of high calorie foods you will think that the food you are eating tastes better.

The study involved 14 participants (9 males) between the ages of 22 and 30. They were presented with 150 photos of which 100 were food items and 50 were kitchen utensils. The task was to identify the photographs as food or non-food. The participants were not aware that their perception of taste was being tested.

Each of the participants had an electrode (referred to as the “taste stimulus”) placed on their tongue to allow researchers to monitor brain activity in response to the photographs. The study’s authors concluded: "When viewing high-calorie food images, participants reported the subsequent taste to be more pleasant than when low-calorie food images preceded the identical taste”.

Vision provides sensory information for food perception. It can raise expectations on taste and nutritional value, and help determine whether to accept or reject a food source.

Based on the results of this test, the solution for a bland lunch could be as easy as looking at a photo of a pizza or hamburger.

Trying to Lose Weight? Eat Cake at Breakfast
A study coming out of Israel suggests that adding ice cream, cake, chocolate or biscuits to your breakfast may help people lose weight.

The study involved 193 obese people between the ages of 20 and 65 who were randomly assigned to one of two diets that were almost identical except for breakfast. One diet included a low carbohydrate diet breakfast while the other breakfast was a high carbohydrate protein-enriched breakfast with a choice of desserts.

The diet was for a period of 16 weeks. Blood tests were taken throughout the study to monitor levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite.

After 16 weeks both groups lost similar weights: 33 lbs in the group that ate the low carbohydrate diet and 30 lbs from the group that ate a high protein breakfast with dessert.

The two groups were then monitored again at 32 weeks and this was where there was a stark difference in results. The low carbohydrate group had regained more than 25 of the 33 lbs lost while the group that had dessert at breakfast regained 15 lbs.

The researchers suggest that most obese people fail to keep off the weight after losing it due to hunger cravings stemming from decreased ghrelin suppression.

The results from the blood tests taken in the initial 16 weeks of the study showed that the participants in the group who had a dessert with breakfast had a 45% decrease in ghrelin levels while those in the low carbohydrate breakfast group experienced a decrease of only 29.5%. It suggests that participants in the group who had breakfast with a dessert felt a better sense of fullness and were less hungry.

This sounds like research advocating cake for breakfast but the researchers conclude: “A high carbohydrate and protein breakfast may prevent weight regain by reducing diet-induced compensatory changes in hunger, cravings and ghrelin suppression. To achieve long-term weight loss, meal timing and macronutrient composition must counteract these compensatory mechanisms which encourage weight regain after weight loss.”

Permanent long-term weight loss still needs lifestyle changes and exercise.