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People who revel in the tastes, sights and scents of food report higher well-being than those who eat simply to satisfy their hunger, according to a new study from UBC Sauder School of Business.

The researchers also found that having a deeper appreciation doesn’t lead to extra pounds, finding there is no correlation between idealizing food and above-average body mass.

“Here in North America, we’re in a society that considers food to be the new tobacco – and that’s the wrong approach,” said Assistant Professor Yann Cornil, the lead author of the study. “Eating pleasure does not need to be the enemy of a healthy lifestyle. Instead, we should help people appreciate all that’s beautiful about food, and build up more of a food culture.”

Cornil and his co-author defined eating pleasure as being either epicurean – the full sensory experience – or visceral – satisfying an impulse . The pair surveyed people to determine how they enjoyed food, and then surveyed them about their general well-being and tendencies to overeat. They compared this data with body mass index of the participants.

Epicureans scored higher on well-being, had less interest in large servings and were equally distributed across the body mass index. The researchers also found epicureans can’t be stereotyped, as they were evenly distributed across age, income and education levels.

Cornil says his findings could inform public health campaigns that too often demonize rich or fatty foods as leading to high rates of obesity and diabetes.

“Loving food doesn’t mean you’re going to eat too much of it – it depends on the kind of pleasure you derive from it,” he said.

“If you eat to satisfy your impulses, then you’re more likely to overindulge and eat large portions mindlessly. But if we teach people to appreciate food for its aesthetics, its symbolism and its rich flavours, then their first bite will the best one, and they’ll be more likely to choose smaller portions.”

The study, “Pleasure as an ally of healthy eating? Contrasting visceral and Epicurean eating pleasure and their association with portion size preferences and wellbeing,” by Yann Cornil and Pierre Chandon, is forthcoming in the journal Appetite.

Find out if you're an epicurean by completing this survey by Cornil and Chandon.