People appear to subconsciously remember the location of high-calorie foods better than other, healthier foods, suggesting that bringing these foods into your home may sabotage even the best intentions and strongest will for healthy eating or weight loss.
A study published in Nature investigated “high-calorie spatial memory bias” to better understand whether human memory is biased toward high-calorie foods. Over 500 participants sampled various high-and low-calorie food stimuli (potato chip and brownie vs cherry tomato and apple) in a maze within two separate rooms that either had a multisensory environment (vision, taste, smell) or an environment that only used food odors. Researchers then asked participants to complete a spatial memory task on a screen in order to determine how well the participants remembered the location of the low and high calorie foods. Individuals who tasted or smelled the high calorie foods were better able recall the location of these foods.
This research suggests that subconscious memories may make it more difficult for some people to maintain healthy food choices, especially if calorie-rich foods are in the home or easily accessible options such as fast-food within the community. So, what’s the takeaway (no pun intended)? Keep that high-calorie junk food out of the home. And remember that willpower alone isn’t enough to override the brain’s memory bias that arise from high calorie foods – set yourself up for success by stocking your kitchen with healthy nutrient-dense whole foods!