Italy: Our brain uses colour to choose food

According to a study from the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA) in Trieste published on 14th November 2016 in Scientific Reports, our brain uses colours to choose food and assess calorie content. 

"Our sight has evolved to identify particularly nutrient-rich berries, fruits and vegetables among the leaves in the jungle. Human vision is trichromatic - we are particularly efficient in distinguishing red from green and our study showed that food colour drives our choices," explains Raffaella Rumiati, neuroscientist form SISSA and coordinator of this new study.



"Generally, food is chosen for its high calorie content. In natural unprocessed food, colour is a good predictor of calorie content. The more an unprocessed food tends to red, the higher the calories. Green food tends in fact to have less calories," adds Francesco Foroni, researcher at SISSA.

"The 68 participants in the study considered red food more 'stimulating' and calorific than green food," reported Giulio Pergola, a researcher from the University of Bari.

"It must be remembered, though, that this only applies to food. This preference is not true for inedible objects. Our visual system's colour code is therefore only activated by food stimuli," continues Rumiati.

This study can be considered a starting point to deepen the knowledge of our visual system and even develop more effective marketing strategies and specific treatments for food disorders. "A lot is being done to promote healthy food; for example, the public is being told to reduce the intake of hyper-calorific food. Maybe food colour could be used in this sense."

For further information:
Francesco Foroni, Giulio Pergola, Raffaella Ida Rumiati, 'Food color is in the eye of the beholder: the role of human trichromatic vision in food Evaluation', 14 Novembre 2016, Scientific Reports, 6:37034, DOI: 10.1038/srep37034. www.nature.com/articles/srep37034

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