Couple sharing ice cream
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Can sweet food spark romance?

By Sarah Moses Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - 17:13
Scientists might have hit on a way to boost the success of a first date. Could cakes and sweets be the way to woo? Read on to learn the sugary secret to helping romance blossom.

People often think of love as being sweet, and in different cultures and languages around the world, lovers woo their partners with sugary names like ‘honey’ and ‘sweetheart’.

Though sweet is just a word used to describe love, research has shown that metaphors like this one can actually affect our attitude and behaviour. With this info in mind, a team of US researchers began to wonder whether eating sugary foods could actually influence our romantic lives.

More attractive

The team came up with a series of studies in an attempt to find an answer. In each study, participants were split into two groups—the first snacked on sweet foods like cookies and pop, while the other group was given salt and vinegar chips and water. Next, some of the participants filled in a questionnaire about their current relationship, while others were asked to imagine a hypothetical romance. They answered questions about the quality of these relationships, including things like satisfaction, commitment, and trust. In the final experiment, participants were actually shown the profile of a potential partner and asked how into the person they’d be.

It turned out that eating sweet foods can have a very real effect on what people think of a potential romantic partner. The groups that noshed on cookies and pop had more positive things to say about their hypothetical relationships than those in the group who had chips and water.

What’s more, in the final study, people who snacked on sweets rated the person in the profile as being more attractive and were keener on dating them.

In the mood

How could eating something sweet affect what people think of a potential romantic partner? One explanation could be by increasing the hormone dopamine, which is a major player in passionate love. Research has also shown that the same parts of our brains are involved in perceiving sweet tastes and being in love, so it’s possible that sugary foods could trigger romantic feelings in this way.

But it’s also possible that sugary foods simply put us in a good mood, and that could affect what we think of a potential partner – though that’s not likely to be the only explanation, say the researchers.

Sweet treat

Eating sweet foods only seems to affect what people think of possible future romances, the study found, perhaps because our opinions of current, real-life relationships tend to be pretty stable, the researchers reason. So if you’re hoping a sweet treat is all it’ll take to turn around an ailing relationship, downing a tub of ice cream with your partner is unlikely to help.

But the findings could be good news if you’re single and want to make a great impression on a first date. A sweet and succulent bowl of gulab jamun or ras malai might just do the trick.

Source: Sweet love: The effects of sweet taste experience on romantic perceptions, Dongning Ren, Kenneth Tan, Ximena B. Arriaga, Kai Qin Chan

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