The more research I do about food & nutrition, the more I’ve learned that sight plays a hugely important role in how full you feel after eating, how much you eat, and how good food seems to taste. A new study called “Visual-Gustatory Interaction: Orbitofrontal and Insular Cortices Mediate the Effect of High-Calorie Visual Food Cues on Taste Pleasantness” now suggests that you can even make bland food taste better if you view a picture of a tasty food first.
Using electrical neuroimaging, we assessed whether high- and low-calorie food cues differentially influence the brain processing and perception of a subsequent neutral electric taste. 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. Moreover, the taste-evoked neural activity was stronger in the bilateral insula and the adjacent frontal operculum (FOP) within 100 ms after taste onset when preceded by high- versus low-calorie cues.
If that sounded a bit confusing, study author Johannes Le Coutre summed up the findings in a more conversational way to MSNBC:
When you view a salivating picture, your orbital frontal cortex, the region of the brain responsible for coding pleasant experiences, lights up and convinces your tongue that the bland food you’re eating is tastier than it actually is, explains study author Johannes Le Coutre, Ph.D, head of perception physiology at Nestle Research Center in Switzerland.
If you’re having a hard time adding some of the blander but healthier foods to your diet (e.g. eating veggies), this weighthack may help make them more palatable.