Have you ever heard the saying: "Good food is fuel for the soul"? The aromatic scent of Indian curry or the sheer joy of opening a pizza box to take a bite (or three) are definitely enough to make us happy and to trigger the release of happiness hormones such as serotonin in the brain.
In a bid to reveal which takeaways boost our serotonin levels most, Lieferando.at conducted an experiment.
We studied 2,158 people throughout 2020 and analysed their emotional reactions to 11 different takeaway meals, from fish and chips to Chinese, to find out which take-outs please us the most.
Using the Brief Mood Introspection Scale (BMIS), we recorded each participants’ mood prior to eating, and after eating a takeaway.
The scale rates the intensity of positive emotions, such as happiness and liveliness, before being added together to create an overall ‘happiness’ score out of a possible 400 for each takeaway cuisine studied.
To give us a general mood score, all 2,158 participants recorded their mood prior to ordering a takeaway. Within five minutes of finishing each takeaway, participants were then asked to record their emotions again.
Participants recorded an average BMIS score of 142 before eating, which was used as a baseline throughout the study for comparison purposes, to see how much happiness levels increased by, on average, after eating each of the 11 different takeaway foods.
Our research found that ordering any kind of takeaway meal increases happiness by an average of 52%, but which takeaway food brings us the most pleasure?
Our analysis also investigated which positive emotions were most prevalent among participants after eating the 11 different takeaway options.
After eating each takeaway, participants were asked to note whether they were feeling lively, happy, caring, content, peppy, calm, loving, or active.
We found that participants felt ‘happy’ the most, with Thai, Chinese, pizza, and fried chicken evoking this emotion the most post-meal.
From a psychological perspective, food alters our mood through several pathways. Firstly, the idea of comfort food is not a myth; we can use food as a coping mechanism when we are feeling stressed, anxious or bored to anchor us in the present while enjoying it.
Due to recent events and the limitations on some forms of entertainment, food has become even more powerful in being a tool of happiness and being an experience that is certain, the same every time.
When we look at the brain chemicals at play, our favourite takeaway can trigger dopamine release. Even just thinking about it can stimulate this, generating a craving that we can then satisfy. An elevated cortisol level can also induce a craving for foods that create a level of comfort, especially foods with higher levels of fat.
Ghrelin and leptin, our hunger hormones, can also impact our emotions and drive our eating behaviours. When we are hungry, and our blood sugar is low, we find it harder to manage our emotional regulation and balance, and this can lead to moments of becoming ‘hangry’.
- Lieferando.at conducted a study with 2,158 takeaway consumers worldwide, providing them with 11 different options throughout 2020.
- The Brief Mood Introspection Scale (BMIS) was used to assess participants' general mood, prior to any takeaways being ordered. Once the meal was ordered and within five minutes of finishing each takeaway, participants were then asked to complete the same survey.
- The scale used for participants was from 1 to 5. These values were multiplied by 10, making the maximum score for each mood 50, and 400 for the final mood score.
- We then collected the results and calculated the average mood scores for all the participants. Prior to eating the takeaway meals, respondents average BMIS score was 142.
- Based on this, the percentage change in the average mood score after the takeaway meal was calculated. A higher percentage increase is assumed to represent a greater increase in reported happiness after eating the takeaway meal.