Tough times may cause you to eat high-calorie foods: Study

Washington: People tend to seek higher-calorie foods that will keep them satisfied longer when there is a perception of tough times, a new study has claimed.

According to the study by the University of Miami School of Business Administration, bad news about the economy could cause you to pack on the pounds.

The study found that when subconsciously primed with such messages, a `live for today` impulse is triggered causing people to consume nearly 40 per cent more food than when compared to a control group primed with neutral words.

Further, when the same group primed with "tough times" messages was then told the food they were sampling was low-calorie, they consumed roughly 25 per cent less of the food.

According to the researchers, this is because if people perceive that food resources are scarce, they place a higher value on food with more calories.

In the first study, the team invited study subjects to join in a taste test for a new kind of candy. Half the participants were given a bowl of the new candy and were told that the secret ingredient was a new, high-calorie chocolate.

The other half of the participants also received a bowl of candy but were told the new chocolate was low-calorie. All of the participants were told that they could sample the product in order to complete a taste test evaluation form.

In reality, there was no difference in the candy that the two groups were given to taste. The researchers were actually measuring how much participants consumed after they were exposed to posters containing either neutral sentences or sentences related to struggle and adversity.

Those who were subconsciously primed to think about struggle and adversity ate closer to 70 per cent more of the "higher-calorie" candy compared to the "lower-calorie" option, while those primed with neutral words did not significantly differ in the amount of candy consumed.

"It is clear from the studies that taste was not what caused the reactions, it was a longing for calories," lead researcher Juliano Laran said in a statement.

The study was published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.