Instagram this: Looking at food pictures may make real food less tasty

Jaren Wilkey/ BYU Photo

Snap-happy when you've got some delicious food in front of you? Taking a picture may be ruining your appetite -- or that of your friends.

A new study suggests that looking at many too many pictures of food may actually make the act of eating less enjoyable.

"In a way, you're becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food," study co-author Ryan Elder, an assistant professor of marketing at Brigham Young University's Marriot School of Management, said in a press release. "It's sensory boredom -- you've kind of moved on. You don't want that taste experience anymore."

Researchers asked 232 people to rate pictures of food based on how appetizing it looked. Half of the participants looked at 60 pictures of sweet foods like cake, truffles and chocolates. The other half looked at salty treats like chips, pretzels and French fries.

Subjects finished off their experiments by eating peanuts, which is a salty food. They were then asked how they would rate the peanuts they just finished.

The people who looked at the salty foods enjoyed the peanuts less than those who didn't, even though they didn't see actual pictures of peanuts. The researchers believed that because they had looked at so many salty delicious foods, the subjects had satisfied their appetite for those types of foods.

The authors believe that the more pictures of a certain type of food a person looks at, the less tasty that food will be when they actually get to eating. They said surfing food pictures might be a good tip for dieters.

"If you want to enjoy your food consumption experience, avoid looking at too many pictures of food," study co-author Jeff Larson, a marketing professor at Brigham Young University's Marriot School of Management, said in a press release. "Even I felt a little sick to my stomach during the study after looking at all the sweet pictures we had."

However, the researchers pointed out the effect was only pronounced if you looked at lots of food pictures. So, unless everyone you follow on Instagram is a foodie, you're probably safe.

"You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects," Elder said. "It's not like if you look at something two or three times you'll get that satiated effect."

The study was published on Oct. 3 in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.