Eating Pitaya

Second-hand Eating

Everybody knows that food cues all around us can affect how much we eat. Big servings, hovering relatives, food at hand, and food marketing all can have the effect of prompting us to eat a little more or something else that we don’t really want. Second-hand eating has even earned a place in the Urban Dictionary of slang.

But who knew that the food cues surrounding us could have a physiological effect?

In a fascinating new animal study, Tonia Schwartz and colleagues from UAB have shown that watching other mice eat a diet of junk food has significant physiological effects on a the offspring of a female mouse limited to regular mouse chow. Pups born to mothers under such conditions weighed significantly less and had less body fat than mice who didn’t watch other mice eating junk food. They also found indications that reproduction might have been more difficult for female mice watching others eat junk food.

Of course, this is just an animal study and a small one at that. But it provides robust experimental evidence that the effects of food cues around us might be more than just psychological.

The food that surrounds us defines our choices and maybe even our biology.

Click here to read the study. Click here and here to read more about the impact of food cues.

Eating Pitaya, image © Aikawa Ke / flickr

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2 Responses to “Second-hand Eating”

  1. April 23, 2015 at 7:07 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Not your best visual integration, Ted, but dang is this not some cool science?!

    Thank you for sharing!

    • April 23, 2015 at 9:06 am, Ted said:

      My visual integrator was offline this morning, Joe. Thanks!