Can Pictures of Food Make You Hungry?

Several studies have found that viewing pictures of food can stimulate hunger. Find out if and when you should continue reading up on food blogs and the like here.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
1-minute read

Can Pictures of Food Make You Hungry?

by Monica Reinagel, M.S., L.D./N.

Q. I just finished reading your two-part series on satiety and satiation. I am a food lover and culinary student, so I subscribe to numerous food blogs, etc., and I see a lot of food pictures every day. I was wondering if this is one of those “environmental” factors that can trigger hunger. Do you think that these pictures are making me want to eat?

A. They sure could! Several studies have found that viewing pictures of food (especially appetizing food) can trigger cravings. Even if you aren’t particularly hungry before looking at food photos, they can actually cause the release of hormones that suddenly make you feel hungry! One recent study also found that drinking a sweetened beverage while looking at high-calorie foods can magnify this effect by stimulating the brain’s reward centers. This particular study involved overweight women, whose reward centers may respond differently than those of normal weight.

If you’re trying to watch your weight, you might want to limit your viewing to low-calorie foods! If viewing “food porn” is a professional necessity, I’d try to do it all at once rather than spreading it out over the course of the day. It might also help to do it immediately after eating when your appetite should be at its lowest. Finally, I’d definitely avoid drinking sweetened beverages while you’re doing your “required reading.”

Greek vegetable salad from Shutterstock

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.