How watching Frozen could make you reach for the biscuit tin: Wintry scenes trigger evolutionary craving for calorie-dense food, study claims

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  • One study found that watching winter scenes leads to eating more caloric foods
  • Experts believe this is what drives our tendency to overeat to survive the winter.
  • He said the advertisements should be re-evaluated to avoid overeating

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Scientists say that watching winter movies like Frozen can make people crave junk food.

One study found that adults who watched a clip of a snowy forest were more likely to prefer a calorie-rich meal than those who watched a summer video.

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Experts claim that chill imagery may stimulate an evolutionary instinct that humans have evolved to avoid starving in winter.

Many animals overeat at the beginning of winter, so their bodies can survive on less food when hunting is difficult.

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The Icelandic researchers who led the study said Coca-Cola may have inadvertently benefited from the biological response with its famous Christmas ad.

He has called for future commercials to avoid the use of chill signs.

The 2013 film Frozen is one of the most successful films of all time and is set in winter

The BBC series The North Water is set around a whaling expedition to the Arctic, with lots of snow sightings

The BBC series The North Water is set around a whaling expedition to the Arctic, with lots of snow sightings

In a study published in the journal Food quality and preferenceThe team, from the University of Reykjavik, asked hundreds of participants to either watch a video of a snow-covered forest filmed in winter or a video of a lush forest in summer.

The study was then divided into four parts.

In one arm of the research, participants filled out 15 different missing word puzzles related to food.

Those who watched the wintry videos were more likely to fill in the blanks to form words related to high-calorie foods.

In the second, those who viewed the cold conditions completed more words related to survival, such as endure, sustain, and fight, than those who viewed the summer walk.

These two studies suggest that people associate high-calorie foods and survival with winter environments, the researchers said.

In the third study, participants watched videos and then estimated the number of calories in different foods and said whether they would like to eat them.

Women watching the winter video showed a ‘calorie craving’, while women watching the summer clip did not prefer one type of food to another.

Meanwhile, the men preferred foods they considered high in calories, regardless of whether they were exposed to signs of cold or heat.

And in the fourth trial, participants completed a calorie-guessing task and disclosed their food preferences after watching a summer video, wintry video, or no video at all.

The study also supported that wintry clips pushed people toward higher-calorie foods, a link not seen among those who watched summer conditions or watched no videos.

The results suggest that people have developed a response to protect them against periods of food scarcity.

Researchers say that even though we don’t need to bulk up for the colder months to survive, our brains have yet to catch on.

Overweight or obesity contributes to millions of premature deaths worldwide each year and causes an economic burden on health systems.

Scientists said that in future, advertisements and public campaigns should avoid showing winter scenes, as it leads people to junk food.

Take, for example, a Greenpeace campaign featuring melting Arctic ice and a Coca-Cola winter ad ‘full of winter signs’, the study shows, leading to an increased preference toward energy-dense food.

So organizations and policy makers may have to ‘re-evaluate their communication strategies’, the researchers said.

What should a balanced diet look like?

According to the NHS, meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains.

According to the NHS, meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains.

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables count

• Foods based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains

• 30 grams of fiber a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruits and vegetables, 2 biscuits of whole wheat cereal, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and a large baked potato with the skin

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks), choose low-fat and low-sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (2 portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume them in moderation

• Drink 6-8 cups/glass of water in a day

• Adults should have less than 6 grams of salt and 20 grams of saturated fat per day for women or 30 grams for men

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide

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