Science Museum experiments to reveal secrets behind food cravings

Visitors to London’s renowned Science Museum are helping University of Roehampton researchers uncover why people overindulge in certain foods and how this relates to their personality and genetic makeup.

Posted: 12 October 2015

image for news story Science Museum experiments to reveal secrets behind food cravings
Dr Leigh Gibson (center) with (left to right) Christle Coxon, PhD psychology student, and Daniella Bakic, BSc Psychology. Photo credit: Jennie Hills, Science Museum

The team of researchers, led by Dr Leigh Gibson, will be conducting experiments throughout October as part of the Live Science project, to find out why some people overeat while others don’t. The study addresses the debate over the risk and causes of obesity, which currently affects two thirds of adults and is still rising, according to Public Health England.

Volunteers will take part in a variety of tasks to analyse their relationship with food, which includes recording their food preferences. 180 adults and children have taken part, and, with the October school half-term coming up, the team expect to test over 600 people. The team’s aim is to find a connection between someone’s personality, their genes, and their appetite for fatty or sugary foods.

Dr Gibson, a Reader in Biopsychology, said: “Engaging with people from all over the world in an exciting experiment at the Science Museum brings our research to life for children and families. Our aim is to better understand obesity risks to ultimately improve lives and people’s health”.

Dr Gibson has undertaken previous research on the relationship between food and the brain, and is helping to develop a European-wide intervention in Kindergartens to reduce the likelihood of children becoming obese. The current study at the Science Museum is in part funded with the University of Bristol, via another EU project, Nudge-it.

This project provides The Department of Psychology student researchers with a hands-on experience by enabling them to administer the experiments and collate and analyse data which will be used in their dissertations and PhD thesis, which will be invaluable in their careers.

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