Eating Before Mirror Helps Lonely People, Increases Appetite: Japan Study

Eating your food alone? It’s truly boring and appetite never shows up. But Japanese researchers have found a simple and doable trick to it.

People tend to eat more when they are in company of others or when guests are there. This phenomenon called “Social Facilitation of Eating” is effective if you invite yourself to a dinner, say researchers. how? Just sit in front of a mirror and there you have company and you can eat more, they assure you.

Nagoya University researchers in Japan have discovered that it gives the same effect that can be achieved in party hogging.

“We wanted to find out what the minimum requirement is for the social facilitation of eating,” lead author Ryuzaburo Nakata says. “Does another person have to actually be physically present, or is information suggesting the presence of others sufficient?”

They experimented it on people who ate alone and those who tried with a mirror in front of them. Sitting or standing before the mirror that displayed the image of a wall actually gave them the same psychological satisfaction of somebody’s presence and the same food tasted better, said researchers.

Since many elderly people eat alone at home, the researchers worked with a group of them and again repeated the same study on adult volunteers and observed the same social facilitation of eating when a mirror was present. So, not only it helps lonely elderly people but also helps adults and all those who are alone.

When the researchers removed the mirror and placed some photos of the volunteers eating, the impact was surprisingly the same. The volunteers tended to experience an increase in the appeal of food and ate more. Even a static image of a person eating seems enough to produce the “social” facilitation of eating, said researchers.

“Frequently eating alone is associated with depression and loss of appetite,” said co-author Nobuyuki Kawai. “Our findings therefore suggest a possible approach to improving the appeal of food, and quality of life, for older people who do not have company when they eat–for example, those who have suffered loss or are far away from their loved ones.”

The study has been published in the journal Physiology & Behavior.

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