How watching Frozen could make you reach for the cookie jar: Winter scenes trigger evolutionary cravings for high-calorie foods, study claims
- Watching winter scenes leads to eating more caloric foods, study finds
- Experts believe it activates our instinct to eat more in winter to survive
- Ads should be re-evaluated to prevent people from eating more, they said
Watching winter movies like Frozen makes people crave junk food, researchers say.
One study found that those who watched a snippet of a snowy forest had a greater preference for caloric foods than those who watched a summer-themed video.
The experts argue that chilly images stimulate an evolutionary instinct humans have developed to avoid winter starvation.
Many animals eat more than they need in the run up to winter so the body can survive on fewer meals when the hunt is tough.
Icelandic researchers who led the study said Coca-Cola may have inadvertently capitalized on the biological response with its famous Christmas ad.
They have called for future advertisements to avoid the use of winter signals.
The 2013 film Frozen is one of the most successful of all time and is set in winter
The BBC series The North Water is set around a whaling expedition to the Arctic, with many ice scenes
In the study published in the journal Food quality and preference, the team from the University of Reykjavik asked hundreds of participants to watch either a video of a snowy forest filmed in the winter, or a lush, green forest in the summer.
The study was then divided into four parts. In part of the study, participants completed 15 different missing word puzzles related to food.
Those who watched the winter video were more likely to fill in the blanks to make words related to high-calorie foods.
In another example, those who watched the cold conditions filled in more words related to survival, such as endure, persevere, and fight, compared to those who watched the summer walk.
Researchers said these two studies suggest that people link high-calorie foods and survival to wintry environments.
In a third study, participants watched the videos and then guessed the number of calories in different foods and said whether they wanted to eat them or not.
Women who watched winter videos showed a “calorie craving,” while women who watched summer clips showed no preference for one type of food over another.
Meanwhile, men preferred foods they thought had more calories, regardless of whether they were exposed to winter or summer cues.
And in a fourth test, participants completed the task of guessing calories and revealing their food preferences after watching a summer video, winter video, or no video at all.
This study also supported that winter clips pushed people toward higher calorie foods, a link not seen in those who watched summer conditions or didn’t watch any video at all.
The results suggest that people have evolved a response to protect them from a period of food scarcity.
Researchers say that while we don’t need to recharge in the colder months to survive, our brains have yet to catch up.
Being overweight or obese contributes to millions of premature deaths around the world every year and puts an economic burden on the health care system.
In the future, ads and public campaigns should avoid showing winter scenes in case it leads people to junk food, the scientists said.
For example, a Greenpeace campaign with melting Arctic ice and a winter advertisement by Coca-Cola are ‘full of winter signals’, which the research shows that the preference for energy-rich foods is increasing.
So organizations and policymakers “may need to re-evaluate their communication strategies,” the researchers said.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 servings of different fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables count
• Basic meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, preferably whole grain
• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is equivalent to eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole-grain cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of whole-wheat bread and large baked potato with skin
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks) and choose options with less fat and less sugar
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 servings of fish per week, one of which is fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide