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Surprise! We Like Junk Food More Than Healthy Food

A recent Johns Hopkins University study, published in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, found that images of junk food are almost twice as likely to tempt you as health food.

According to an NBC News report, after a few bites of candy study participants found junk food to be no more interesting than kale — which also proves that food shopping hungry may cause you to choose less healthy options than if you’d indulged in a little snack beforehand. 

Corbin A. Cunningham, distinguished Science of Learning fellow in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, at Johns Hopkins University, asked a group of participants to complete a complicated computer task and find the answers as quickly as possible. While they performed the task, pictures of high-fat, high-calorie foods, healthy foods, and miscellaneous inedible items flashed in the periphery of the screen for all of 125 milliseconds — too fast for people to comprehend exactly what they saw. As it turns out, the pictures were all distracting, but participants found the images of junk food twice as distracting as the healthy food and inedible items. 

Cunningham says one reason unhealthy foods may seem more tempting to people than healthy foods is the innate biological desire to consume high calorie or “energy-dense” foods because, quite simply, they taste better. 

So in this ear of better-for-you candies and snacks it is critical that these products not only get shelf space, but are sampled extensively so that shoppers can actually see how far the industry has come in terms of the combination of health AND taste. And if we do that correctly, I have little doubt we can reverse our obesity and diabetes epidemics. 

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