Expressing Food through Art: Evidence for a Nutrient-Specific Effect on Mood


Background: Brain imaging studies show evidence of selective brain reward responses to high calorie foods. Behavioral studies extend this research by showing that such foods can enhance emotions, even for sweet-tasting low calorie foods (i.e., fruits). In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that participants will show more positive emotional change when drawing pictures of foods that are high fat or taste sweet compared to bitter-tasting foods—as a possible behavioral intervention for enhancing mood. Method: Participants were randomly assigned to one of four art groups: high fat-high sugar (HFHS; stimulus food: cupcakes), high fat-low sugar (HFLS; stimulus food: pizza), low fat-high sugar (LFHS; stimulus food: strawberries), or low fat-low sugar (LFLS; stimulus food: peppers). Participants used three colors (red, green, black) in their art, were required to use all three colors, and told that the colors they use must reflect actual colors that are natural for the food depicted. Participants drew images of a stimulus food and prepost measures of mood and arousal were recorded. Results: Consistent with the hypothesis, the results show that drawing pictures of high fat foods (cupcakes, pizzas) and a food that tastes sweet (strawberries) results in greater increases in mood compared to drawing a bitter-tasting food (peppers). Changes in mood were independent of BMI, daily sugar intake, daily fat intake, arousal, and hunger. Conclusion: These results extend a growing body of biobehavioral research on the positive impact of food images on mood by showing that this impact can be applied to enhance mood when expressing food images through art.

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G. Privitera, B. Moshaty, F. Marzullo and M. Misenheimer, "Expressing Food through Art: Evidence for a Nutrient-Specific Effect on Mood," Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science, Vol. 3 No. 2, 2013, pp. 163-167. doi: 10.4236/jbbs.2013.32016.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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