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Eating in company improves appetite and makes food more tasty
Older people in particular often eat alone and suffer from anorexia. Researchers have now found that food eaten by humans is rated as better tasting when eating in company compared to people who eat alone. This phenomenon is also known as social relief of eating. The doctors also discovered that the same effect can be achieved in individuals if they put up a mirror while eating alone.
The scientists at Nagoya University in Japan found in their investigation that eating our meals alone with a mirror leads to an increased appetite and an improved taste experience. These effects are comparable to the consumption of food in society. The experts published a press release on the results of their study.
Eating with a mirror has interesting effects
It was already known that people eat more food and also classify it as more tasty when they eat in the company of other people. However, it is unclear what exactly leads to this effect. Nagoya University researchers found that the same effect occurs when individuals eat with a mirror.
What are the minimum requirements for social facilitation of eating?
We wanted to find out what is the minimum requirement for social relief of food, says author Ryuzaburo Nakata. Does it make a difference whether another person is actually present or is it sufficient if there is information that indicates the presence of other people? The experts found that people who eat alone classified their food as more tasty and consumed more of it when they could look at themselves in the mirror while eating. When subjects ate in front of a monitor that showed the image of a wall, these effects could not be determined, the scientists explain.
Results are particularly relevant for older people
The research team initially worked with a group of older adult volunteers. Approaches to improving the enjoyment of food are particularly relevant for older people. Other studies have already shown that many older people often eat alone. When the team repeated the experiment with young adult volunteers, they observed the same so-called social relief of eating when a mirror was present. This indicates that the observed effect is not limited to the elderly, the authors explain.
The effect is also triggered by looking at photos of the eating person
In another experiment, the scientists replaced the mirror with photos of the eating participants. They found that an increase in the appetite of the test subjects was also observed here. Surprisingly, a static image of a person seems to be enough to trigger the social relief effect of eating when consuming food, the scientists say.
Frequent eating alone is associated with depression and loss of appetite
Previous studies have shown that the consumption of food is associated with an increased quality of life, especially for older adults. In contrast, frequent eating alone is associated with depression and loss of appetite, says author Nobuyuki Kawai.
Eating with a mirror could improve the quality of life for many older people
Our results indicate a possible approach to improve the attraction of food and improve the quality of life, the researchers report. This applies in particular to older people who often eat alone. People with anorexia, for example whose partner has already died or whose families and acquaintances live far away, may be able to receive better help in the future. (as)