clock menu more-arrow no yes
Cherry-bourbon pie from Detroit's Sister Pie
Cherry-bourbon pie from Detroit's Sister Pie
Bill Addison

Is scrolling through an Instagram feed populated with aioli-slathered burgers, glistening bowls of pork belly-filled ramen, and glossy hot fudge-topped ice cream sundaes making you fat? A new scientific review suggests that excessive viewing of so-called "food porn" might contribute to people eating more than they should. Go figure.

In the introduction to the review, which is titled "Eating With Our Eyes: From Visual Hunger to Digital Satiation," the authors wonder if there's more to the current obesity crisis than simply an abundance of easily accessible, calorie-rich food. They ask "whether there aren’t other implicit cues in our environments that might be triggering hunger more often than is perhaps good for us" — e.g., an abundance of food porn. The review analyzes and cites dozens of scientific studies to conclude — perhaps not so shockingly? — that simply looking at images of desirable foods can create actual physiological hunger where there previously wasn't any. As The Guardian explains, "The argument is that, when we see an attractive image of food, blood rushes to the parts of our brain associated with taste. We experience the desire to eat, even if we’re not hungry."

The study's co-author, Professor Charles Spence of Oxford University, stops short of recommending that cooking magazines be hidden away with the Playboys and Penthouses of the world — but he tells The Guardian, "I do think government agencies should think seriously about our exposure to visual food cues. We’re being subjected to so much food stimuli and nobody’s really thought about the consequences."

It's hardly the first time the suggestion that food porn could have detrimental effects on the public's health has arisen, though: Back in 2012, daytime TV health troll Dr. Oz argued that food porn can be dangerous and possibly even addictive; a study conducted the following year claimed that taking lots of pictures of your food can be indicative of  "a deeper medical issue" or a predisposition for weight problems.

Sign up for the Sign up for the Eater newsletter

The freshest news from the food world every day