February 15, 2006
Food In Eyesight Increases Consumption

Here is some news you can use to keep off excess pounds. Opaque rather than clear containers make a big difference in the amount of candy consumed from nearby containers.

When it comes to candy, it is out of sight, out of the mouth, a Cornell University researcher finds.

The study finds that women eat more than twice as many Hershey Kisses when they are in clear containers on their desks than when they are in opaque containers on their desks -- but fewer when they are six feet away.

"Interestingly, however, we found that participants consistently underestimated their intake of the candies on their desks yet overestimated how much they ate when the candies were farther away," said Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing and of Applied Economics at Cornell.

The study -- one of the few experiments to quantify the "temptation factor" -- was presented at the Obesity Society meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity in September in Vancouver, Canada. It is published online and will be published in an upcoming February issue of the International Journal of Obesity.

Wansink and his co-authors, James E. Painter and Yeon-Kyung Lee, assistant professor and visiting scholar, respectively, in food science at the University of Illinois-Champaign, gave 40 university female staff and faculty members 30 chocolate Kisses in either clear or opaque candy jars on their desks or six feet away. Each night, the researchers counted how many candies were eaten and refilled the jars.

"Not surprisingly, the participants ate fewer candies when the Kisses were in opaque rather than clear candy jars on their desks and even fewer when the opaque jars were six feet away from their desks," Wansink said. "The less visible and less convenient the candy, the less people thought about it and were tempted."

Specifically, participants ate an average of 7.7 Kisses each day when the chocolates were in clear containers on their desks; 4.6 when in opaque containers on the desk; 5.6 when in clear jars six feet away; and 3.1 when in opaque jars six feet away.

This cogs with my everyday experience at my work desk. If I put food in a cabinet and close the cabinet door I'm less likely to munch during the day.

I've also noticed I eat more dried cranberries than dried Montmorency cherries at similar sweetness levels. I like the Montmorency cherries better. But they are so rich in flavor compared to the cranberries that I eat them more slowly since each one provides more flavor experience than a similar quantity of cranberries. So maybe foods with more intense flavors (and by flavors I'm not referring to either sweetness or fattiness) could reduce food consumption.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 February 15 09:41 PM  Brain Appetite

Anonymous said at February 18, 2006 9:30 PM:

That's true... I buy my kids those sour juice candies, because it keeps them quiet so much longer without them actually eating so much sweet stuff.

Legal lady said at February 21, 2006 7:53 AM:

This is a really cool study! It says a lot about people not really being aware of their eating habits. We just eat what is easy, with very little thought to whether we are really hungry, or if it is good for us.

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