Seeing pictures of food affects taste perception, study finds

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 15th March 2012

Just looking at images of food can change our taste experience, according to new Swiss research published yesterday in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

The authors of the study, led by Johannes le Coutre of the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland, recruited fourteen healthy participants (nine males), aged between 22 and 30 years old for the study.

The researchers conducted neuro-imaging studies that identified previously unknown brain mechanisms of visual-gustatory sensory interactions involved with food enjoyment.

They found that participants reported tastes to be more pleasant when preceded by images of high-calorie foods, such as pizza or pastry, as compared to low-calorie foods like watermelon or green beans.

According to the researchers, the study highlights the importance of visual food appeal as one determinant for nutritional reward.

The research was funded by the Nestle Research Center, Lausanne, Switzerland, which was involved in conceiving, designing and performing the experiments, and analyzing the data.

Lead author Johannes le Coutre said, “The study provides novel insights into cross-modal sensory interactions underlying taste and, in extension, probably also food evaluation and consumption.

“Future studies will have to elucidate to what extent the brain regions shown to be involved in visual-gustatory interactions could account for regulation of appetite and food intake control in real world settings.”