If you’ve ever wondered whether listing the calorie details next to food makes much difference when it comes to what you actually choose, the answer is in! A new study from Dartmouth College has revealed that not only does calorie information make food become less appetising, but it also seems to change the way your brain responds to the food, making it less enjoyable.
The study was conducted on 42 young people (aged 18-22) who were half dieters, half non-dieters. They were shown images of unhealthy food and asked to rank how likely they would be to eat them. When all participants in the study were shown images of food with the calorie content, their brains showed decreased activation of the reward system and increased activation in the control system. This was particularly strong in the dieting group.
This is of course good news if you’re trying to steer yourself away from less healthy choices, as seeing the calories will make you less inclined to order junk food options.
‘Our findings suggest that calorie labeling may alter responses in the brain’s reward system when considering food options. Moreover, we believe that nutritional interventions are likely to be more successful if they take into account the motivation of the consumer, including whether or not they diet,’ says first author Andrea Courtney, who was a graduate student in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth at the time of the study