Skip to main content

In this Monday, April 9, 2012, file photo, Instagram is demonstrated on an iPhone, in New York.Karly Domb Sadof/The Associated Press

Annoyed that your friends Instagram every latte, donut and fish taco they eat?

If you're trying to shed some pounds, it turns out, those friends might actually be doing you a favour.

Researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah have found that looking at food photos makes people enjoy eating those same foods less, meaning they'll likely also consume less of it.

The study suggests that someone trying to lose weight, for example, can simply look at photos of ice cream or French fries and feel sated – as if they've already eaten the food – without actually having to consume the calories.

BYU researchers conducted the experiment by recruiting over 230 people to look at pictures of either sweet or salty foods. As they did this, the participants were given salty peanuts to eat.

At the end of the experiment, those who had looked at salty foods – French fries, chips and pretzels – reported enjoying the salty peanuts less than those who had been looking at photos of sweets.

"You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects," said Ryan Elder, one of the study's authors. "It's not like if you look at something two or three times you'll get that satiated effect."

"Foodstagramming," the habit of posting "food porn" on social networks, has received a fair bit of backlash recently. Chefs like David Chang have banned the practice inside his restaurants, and one University of Toronto professor even suggested the habit may be sign of a possible eating disorder.

And though the BYU study's results, if true, won't make your friend's one-hundredth picture of eggs benedict or the sad quinoa she had for lunch any less annoying, at least your waistline will be slimmer because of it.