Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How a McDonald's sign makes us MISERABLE: Fast food logos 'stop people enjoying music and art'

This sounds like the respondents just gave the researchers the response that they knew was wanted

Just looking at a McDonalds sign, or any other symbols of our ‘culture of convenience’, makes us sad, according to new research.

Canadian researchers claim being exposed to symbols of fast food and other signs of disposable society could make the smaller, everyday things in life harder to enjoy.

The study found that people regularly exposed to fast food signs are less likely to savour enjoyable experiences, such as finding pleasure in art and music.

Researchers from the University of Toronto picked the McDonalds symbol to examine, as they claim it has become the ‘ultimate symbol of time efficiency’ in the modern world.

Student Julian House and professors Sanford E. DeVoe and Chen-Bo Zhong, from the university, told Psypost: ‘It is ironic that technologies designed to improve well-being by minimising time spent on mundane chores may ultimately undermine the surplus leisure time they permit.

‘By instigating a sense of impatience, these technologies may prevent people from savouring the enjoyable moments life offers serendipitously.'

The research, published in journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, discovered that people who regularly see fast-food symbols, are not as likely to savour enjoyment in art and music.

An examination of 280 participants in the U.S. found people while living in neighbourhoods packed with fast food outlets were less likely to savour enjoyable experiences.

In another experiment, 250 people rated the suitability of five advertising images, three of which were ‘neutral’ and two showed McDonalds meals.

Half of the survey participants saw food displayed in the McDonalds packaging, while the other half saw the same food on ceramic plates.

Half of the participants were also shown scenes of natural beauty and all those who took part were asked to rate their happiness.

The scientists found that people who looked at the pictures of natural beauty were happier than those who had not, but the effect was lost on those who had also looked at the McDonalds symbol as they reported being less happy than those people who had only looked at the scenery.

Another 122 participants rated the same five images of food but some listened to 86 seconds of ‘The Flower Duet’ from opera Lakmé.

Those who had only listened to the music and seen the neutral food images thought the music had lasted longer than it did,, while those who had also seen the McDonalds food in its official packaging reported a less positive emotional response to the piece of music and were less patient.

The researchers believe it is important to understand the influence of advertising symbols as they are so prevalent in our everyday environment.

‘As a ubiquitous symbol of an impatient culture, fast food not only impacts people’s physical health but may also shape their experience of happiness in unexpected ways,’ they said.

However, they stressed the findings only examined a small sample of ‘early pleasures’ and that happiness does not simply rely on the savouring of experiences.


Drinking doesn't make you fat: A startling new book claims that nightly glass of wine won't go straight to the hips

Here’s just some of the evidence. Professor Charles S. Lieber of Harvard University, who died in 2009, was probably the greatest expert on alcohol and health the world has ever seen.

In the Seventies, he founded the first scientific journal on alcohol, and was also the first to establish a link between alcohol and liver disease. So he was no friend of alcohol.

Yet in 1991 he firmly rejected the notion that alcohol has any significant effect on weight.

Lieber, however, was relying mainly on evidence drawn from studies that were looking at alcohol’s other effects. It wasn’t until later that anyone actually decided to examine this conundrum directly.

In the Nineties, researchers at Harvard embarked on a survey of almost 20,000 middle-aged women, whose drinking habits and weight were tracked for almost 13 years.

At the start, the women were all roughly UK dress sizes 8 to 12.

By the end, about 9,000 had put on significant amounts of weight, and some had become clinically obese.

All other things being equal, you’d expect the fatties to be the drinkers. But they weren’t.

In fact, the fatties were the women who didn’t drink, and the skinnies were the heaviest drinkers.

The women who drank five grams of alcohol a day reduced their risk of being overweight by 4 per cent. Those who drank 15 grams (roughly one medium glass of wine) a day reduced their risk of piling on the pounds by 14 per cent.

The figures were even more striking when it came to obesity.

Drinking 30 grams (two medium glasses of wine) a day or more gave the women an incredible 70 per cent reduction in obesity risk.

So it was the non-drinkers who turned into size 18s or more.

In other words, this study showed that alcohol is not only non-fattening, but actually helps prevent weight gain.

A rogue result? Well, this was certainly no tin-pot study.

The researchers made full allowances for obvious lifestyle differences that might have skewed the results, such as exercise, food intake and smoking habits.

Indeed, if the study had been a 13-year trial of a new slimming pill, the drug company involved would have been laughing all the way to the bank.

However, this was just one piece of research.

In the world of science, to stand a chance of anyone believing such startling evidence, the results need to be independently replicated.

Which means other researchers have to find pretty much the same thing.

And they have — in spades. Here are just three of the studies conducted in the past 25 years which demonstrate that alcohol doesn’t cause weight gain:

    A six-year study of 43,500 people by the University of Denmark. Key findings: teetotallers and infrequent drinkers ended up with the biggest waistlines, daily drinkers had the smallest.

    An eight-year study of 49,300 women by University College Medical School, London. Key findings: women who drank below 30 grams a day (around two medium glasses of wine) were up to 24 per cent less likely to put on weight than teetotallers.

    A ten-year study of 7,230 people by the U.S. National Center for Disease Control. Key findings: drinkers gained less weight than non-drinkers. Alcohol intake did not increase the risk of obesity.

And there are at least a dozen more studies on alcohol and weight which, by and large, confirm these results. So why isn’t the medical world rejoicing?

Given the obesity epidemic in the Western world, you’d expect doctors to be rushing to prescribe two glasses of wine a day for overweight patients.

Well, science doesn’t quite work like that. Although data shows people who drank alcohol didn’t put on weight  it doesn’t actually prove that beyond any doubt.

Yes, the studies made adjustments for other factors — such as a person’s social class, fitness and education — what if they’d missed something?

On the other hand, it’s highly unlikely that so many studies were wrong. And the methods used are certainly widely accepted as proof when it comes to, say, evaluating new vaccines.

Even so, it can take decades to challenge long-held scientific theories successfully.

So we’re back to where we started: nutritionists remain adamant that because alcohol is high in calories, drinking must therefore put on weight.  To think otherwise is tantamount to heresy.

Fortunately, in the past ten years, a few nutritionists have had the courage to question this dogma.

One of the simplest studies was done in 1997 by U.S. sports scientists who wanted to find out if drinking a couple of glasses of wine a day puts on weight or not.

A total of 14 men were studied for 12 weeks, during which they either drank a third of a bottle of red wine a day for six weeks, then abstained for the next six weeks, or vice-versa.

The result? The addition of two glasses of red wine to the evening meal had no effect on the men’s weight.

But that still didn’t convince sceptical nutritionists.

If taking in extra calories from alcohol doesn’t put on weight, they argued, it must mean alcohol somehow makes people eat less.

So in 1999, Swiss physiologists tested 52 people to see if the sceptics were right.

Predictably, they weren’t: alcohol, they found, actually made people want to eat more. What a surprise.

Next, they tested other theories. Was alcohol causing the body to heat up? Was it affecting fat metabolism? Again the answer was no: the team was stumped.

In fact, if you search the literature, you’ll find no one has any explanation for why alcohol calories don’t seem to count.


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