Why food porn is bad according to a nutritionist

Health

We’ve become obsessed with Instagramming our food and the popular hashtag #foodporn currently has nearly 218 million posts. But is it healthy? We ask nutritionist Jenna Hope…

What is food porn?

#Foodporn is defined as images that portray food in a very appetising or aesthetically appealing way.

What impact does #foodporn have on the brain?

In some cases food porn (specifically foods high in fat and sugar) has been shown to increase Ghrelin (the hunger hormone). It’s also been found to stimulate the prefrontal cortex and the insula – two key components of the brain which are involved in reward and decision making. There’s also a suggestion that images of #food porn could stimulate cue-induced eating. This could mean that those who engage with more food porn have a greater risk of consuming larger amounts of high sugar, high fat foods.

Is there a correlation between food porn and eating disorders?

Whilst there is no conclusive evidence of this yet it is important to be aware of the effects of Instagram on potential eating disorders or disordered eating. For example, not all influencers will consume everything they post and there may be a risk of posting very aesthetically appealing meals for the ‘likes’. As a result, followers may assume that these meals have been consumed by said influencer and consequently may be more inclined to consume these. Additionally, influencers may be posting food porn type meals as a method for covering up a disordered relationship with food.

How has food porn changed our eating habits?

Food porn has the ability to hugely influence our eating behaviours. When we see distorted images in terms of portion size, ingredients and colours it can increase the desire for highly palatable foods. This can also create ‘norms’ around food portions which may influence portion sizes consumed in real life. For example, it’s not uncommon to see porridge bowls dripping in nut butter (containing far more than the recommended tablespoon portion) or milkshakes with three doughnuts stacked high.

Photo: Jenna Hope

Should we and/or how can we avoid food porn?

Avoiding food porn in today’s society is incredibly difficult given the nature and popularity of Instagram. I would recommend unfollowing any accounts which you believe to be distorting your relationship with food. Aside from that, being aware of the potential effects and questioning what you see may help to limit the effects.

Is it all bad?

It’s not all bad news though as Instagram can provide healthy food inspiration. When healthy dishes look delicious and inviting we may be much more likely to want to cook and eat them. For example, when homemade curries, stews and soups are made to look aesthetically appealing on social media it can encourage the desire to consume healthier meals.

By Sam

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