In the mood to lose weight How soft lighting and mellow music could help you cut the calories
16:26 GMT, 31 August 2012
Soft lighting and mellow jazz in fast food restaurants can reduce calorie intake and increase satisfaction, research shows.
Researchers found dimming the lights and playing soft music caused fast food lovers to eat 175 fewer calories and enjoy their food more.
The results challenge ideas that people who dine in a relaxed environment, with soft lighting and mellow music, will order more food than in a typical dining environment.
Mood lighting: A romantic ambience could also encourage you to leat less, scientists say
Researchers gave a fast food joint a fine dining make over complete with soft lighting and chilled jazz music and asked participants to eat in either the fine dining section or unchanged fast food part of the restaurant.
The amount of time spent eating and the amount of food consumed was recorded and participants were asked to rate the quality before leaving.
The Cornell University researchers thought the relaxed atmosphere would cause participants to linger for longer and order more food than those in the fast food environment.
However, results showed that even though participants in the fine dining area ate for longer, they actually consumed less food, and were less likely to order extra.
Bright lighting in fast food restaurants may encourage you to gobble your food
The Psychological Reports study also found despite fine diners eating 18 per cent less of their food – 775 calories instead of 949 – they actually rated it as more enjoyable.
The researchers say if fast food restaurants want consumers to enjoy their food more, they should tone down the lights and create a more relaxing atmosphere – while people wanting to eat less should slow down their meals.
They explain if people are less distracted by the surrounding environment and more focused on their food, they are less likely to mindlessly eat, so perhaps they should play a little soft jazz at dinnertime.
Professor Brian Wansink said: 'When we did a makeover of a fast-food restaurant, we found that softer music and lighting led diners to eat 175 fewer calories and enjoy it more.
'These results suggest that a more relaxed environment increases satisfaction and decreases consumption.
'This is important information for fast-food restaurants, which are often accused of contributing to obesity: Making simple changes away from brighter lights and sound-reflecting surfaces can go a long way toward reducing overeating – and increase their customers' satisfaction at the same time.'