Lopez, Choi, Dellawar, Cullen, Contreras, Rosenfeld, and Tomiyama’s work confirms that visual cues influence the amount of food consumed. As the researchers report, “Satiation can play a role in regulating eating behavior, but research suggests visual cues may be just as important. In a seminal study by Wansink et al. (2005), researchers used self-refilling bowls to assess how visual cues of portion size would influence intake. The study found that participants who unknowingly ate from self-refilling bowls ate more soup than did participants eating from normal (not self-refilling) bowls.
Promote Physical Health/Improve Health Outcomes
Working with mice, Small and teammates have established links between seasonal light exposure and metabolism that might ultimately be extended to humans. They report that “Except for latitudes close to the equator, seasonal variation in light hours can change dramatically between summer and winter. . . . We hypothesized that altering the seasonal photoperiod affects both the rhythmicity of peripheral tissue clocks and energy homeostasis. Mice were housed at photoperiods representing either light hours in summer, winter, or the equinox.
Michels and colleagues evaluated how scents influenced eating after people were stressed. They share that “Before and after Trier Social Stress Test, 91 participants . . . inhaled one odor during 10 min: Scots pine, grass . . . or control (i.e., demineralized water). . . . Both nature olfactory exposures improved some stress outcomes. Both were associated with lower cortisol in non-stress conditions, but only grass odor was more beneficial for negative affect [mood] decrease after stress. No effect on heart rate variability was seen. . . .
Creating walkable spaces can be as good for our physical health as it is for our mental health. Koohsari, Nagai, Oka, Nakaya, Yasunaga, and McCormack report that “neighborhoods with more active living options and higher population density were associated with fewer risk factors for metabolic syndrome. . . . Cardiovascular diseases continue to be the leading causes of death worldwide. Metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors including hypertension and obesity, significantly increases the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases. . . .
The design of spaces and of objects have a big influence on what we eat and whether an eating situation is one we want to repeat. The findings of design-related neuroscience studies indicate how during-eating circumstances can encourage healthy food choices and increase restaurant traffic, for example.
Promoting physical and mental health in constructed spaces, at multiple scales
Niza and associates investigated the conditions under which sick building syndrome is most likely to occur. They determined via a literature review that “Headaches, fatigue, malaise and nausea are amongst the complaints associated with SBS. . . . . indoor air quality (IAQ) emerged as the primary factor influencing SBS, especially within the post-pandemic context. Increasing air circulation and ventilation are viable alternatives to enhance IAQ.”
Yin’s dissertation research probed the short-term health effects of indoor biophilic design via multiple virtual reality-based projects. It determined that “participants experiencing biophilic environment virtually had similar physiological and cognitive responses, including reduced blood pressure and skin conductance and improved short-term memory, as when experiencing the actual environment. . . . we designed a . . . study to let 30 participants experience three versions of biophilic design in simulated open and enclosed office spaces in VR.
Chae, Yoon, Baskin and Zhu studied how what we smell influences what we eat. They determined that “the effects of indulgent food scents [the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking, for example] on preference for indulgent food items, which Biswas and Szocs (2019) identify in joint decision tasks, hold when foods are evaluated separately. . . . Based on counteractive-control theory, we propose that extended exposure to an indulgent olfactory cue influences motivation by activating one’s diet goal, resulting in reduced intended indulgent food consumption.
The Irish Times reports on a study presented at the European Congress on Obesity by Brouwer and van Rossum. The researchers found that “living in a safer neighborhood can have a greater impact on weight loss than how close your home is to a gym of grocery store. Factors such as inadequate street lighting, groups of loitering children, and heavy traffic all have an association with difficulties losing weight. . . .