Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Organic food labels: Participants showed an organic halo effect leading them to consider the organic cookie as healthy as a conventional one despite containing 14% more of the daily reference intake for sugar and 30% more for fat

Organic food labels bias food healthiness perceptions: Estimating healthiness equivalence using a Discrete Choice Experiment. Juliette Richetin et al. Appetite, February 9 2022, 105970.

Abstract: Individuals perceive organic food as being healthier and containing fewer calories than conventional foods. We provide an alternative way to investigate this organic halo effect using a mirrored method to Choice Experiments applied to healthiness judgments. In an experimental study (N = 415), we examined whether healthiness judgments toward a 200g cookie box are impacted by the organic label, nutrition information (fat and sugar levels), and price and determined the relative importance of these attributes. In particular, we assessed whether food with an organic label could contain more fat or sugar and yet be judged to be of equivalent healthiness to food without this label. We hoped to estimate the magnitude of any such effect. Moreover, we explored whether these effects were obtained when including a widely used system for labeling food healthiness, the Traffic Light System. Although participants' healthiness choices were mainly driven by the reported fat and sugar content, the organic label also influenced healthiness judgments. Participants showed an organic halo effect leading them to consider the organic cookie as healthy as a conventional one despite containing more fat and sugar. Specifically, they considered the organic cookie as equivalent in healthiness to a conventional one, although containing 14% more of the daily reference intake for sugar and 30% more for fat. These effects did not change when including the Traffic Light System. This effect of the organic label could have implications for fat and sugar intake and consequent impacts on health outcomes.

Keywords: Organic food labelPerceived healthinessFat intakeSugar intake

In contrast to substance use or gambling, excessive behaviors (compulsive shopping, sex) are transient for most, and their comparatively lower levels of chronicity questions their designations as ‘addictions’

Addiction chronicity: are all addictions the same? Nolan B. Gooding, Jennifer N. Williams, Robert J. Williams. Addiction Research & Theory , Feb 8 2022.


Background: All addictions have a recurring nature, but their comparative chronicity has never been directly investigated. The purpose of this study is to undertake this investigation.

Method: A secondary analysis was conducted on two large scale 5-year Canadian adult cohort studies. A subset of 1,088 individuals were assessed as having either substance use disorder, gambling disorder, excessive behaviors (e.g. shopping, sex/pornography), or two or more of these designations (‘multiple addictions’) during the course of these studies. Within each dataset comparisons were made between these four groups concerning the number of waves they had their condition; likelihood of having their condition in two or more consecutive waves; and likelihood of relapse following remission.

Results: Multiple addictions had significantly greater chronicity on all measures compared to single addictions. People with an excessive behavior designation had significantly lower chronicity compared to people with gambling disorder and a tendency toward lower chronicity compared to substance use disorder. Gambling disorder had equivalent chronicity to substance use disorder in one dataset but greater chronicity in the other. However, this latter difference is likely an artifact of the different time frames utilized.

Conclusions: Having multiple addictions represents a more pervasive condition that is persistent for most individuals. Substance use disorder and gambling disorder have intermediate and roughly equivalent levels of chronicity, but considerable individual variability, transient for some, but more chronic for others. In contrast, excessive behaviors such as compulsive shopping are transient for most, and their comparatively lower levels of chronicity questions their designations as ‘addictions’.

Keywords: Addictionchronicitylongitudinalcohortgamblingsubstance

By contrast to other tastes, sour taste does not appear to have been lost in any major vertebrate taxa; but for most species, sour taste is aversive: Animals, including humans, that enjoy the sour taste triggered by acidic foods are exceptional

The evolution of sour taste. Hannah E. R. Frank, Katie Amato, Michelle Trautwein, Paula Maia, Emily R. Liman, Lauren M. Nichols, Kurt Schwenk, Paul A. S. Breslin and Robert R. Dunn. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, February 9 2022.

Abstract: The evolutionary history of sour taste has been little studied. Through a combination of literature review and trait mapping on the vertebrate phylogenetic tree, we consider the origin of sour taste, potential cases of the loss of sour taste, and those factors that might have favoured changes in the valence of sour taste—from aversive to appealing. We reconstruct sour taste as having evolved in ancient fish. By contrast to other tastes, sour taste does not appear to have been lost in any major vertebrate taxa. For most species, sour taste is aversive. Animals, including humans, that enjoy the sour taste triggered by acidic foods are exceptional. We conclude by considering why sour taste evolved, why it might have persisted as vertebrates made the transition to land and what factors might have favoured the preference for sour-tasting, acidic foods, particularly in hominins, such as humans.

(e) Consequences of sour taste preferences for hominins

Regardless of whether rotting fruits played a role in the shift of the acid preference curve in hominins, we hypothesize that the existence of acid taste preference may have strongly influenced the later relationship between hominins and rotten fruits and other rotten foods. Based on studies in the laboratory, three groups of microorganisms compete during the rot of fruits [78], single-celled budding yeasts (most of which are from the Saccharomycetales clade of fungi), filamentous fungi (such as Penicillium) and lactic acid bacteria. While all of these organisms produce short-chain fatty acids when they ferment fruit, yeasts also tend to produce alcohol, and lactic acid bacteria produce lactic acid. Rotten fruits that become dominated by filamentous fungi can be dangerous [79]. However, rotten fruits that become dominated by yeasts and lactic bacteria are often ‘improved’ from the perspective of consumers. Rot due to lactic acid bacteria and yeasts often increases food caloric, free amino acid and vitamin content and hence improves digestibility by breaking down fibre and plant toxins [8084]. Therefore, in challenging nutritional environments, fruits rotted by yeasts or lactic acid bacteria likely represented a valuable food source that could increase chances of survival [4]. If the acid-preference of the MRCA (whenever acquired) allowed it to more readily consume heavily fermented fruit, or at least the subset of that fruit rotted by lactic acid bacteria, they might have been able to take advantage of a novel source of safe calories.

There exists molecular evidence that the last common ancestor of gorillas, chimpanzees and humans consumed fermented fruits. For example, a single amino acid replacement in the ADH4 gene in the lineage shared by humans and African apes resulted in a 40-fold improvement in ethanol oxidation [85]. This change would have allowed the MRCA to consume yeast-fermented fruits on the ground with higher concentrations of both ethanol and acids [85] without concomitant neurological toxicity (or drunkenness; [53]). This ability may have allowed the MRCA to survive and reproduce more effectively in nutritionally challenging, seasonal environments, particularly as climate change resulted in more fragmented and open habitats. At about the same time, the MRCA acquired a third copy of the HCA3 gene encoding G protein-coupled receptors for hydroxycarboxylic acids, such as lactic acid, produced by the fermentation of dietary carbohydrates by lactic acid bacteria [86]. While this gene is found in all great apes, it is most strongly activated in chimpanzees, gorillas and humans, with humans exhibiting the strongest effects, suggesting that, in some form acid-producing bacteria (and the detection of their products) played a larger role in apes than in other primates and in humans than in non-human apes. As has been considered elsewhere, a fondness for acidic foods, particularly when combined with preferences for umami tastes, may have predisposed ancestral humans to eventual intentional control of rotting to yield more favourable outcomes, which is to say, fermentation [4,87].

Positive effect of swearing on strength: Humorous disinhibition as a potential mediator

Effect of swearing on strength: Disinhibition as a potential mediator. Richard Stephens et al. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, February 8, 2022.


Introduction: Swearing fulfils positive functions including benefitting pain relief and physical strength. Here we present two experiments assessing a possible psychological mechanism, increased state disinhibition, for the effect of swearing on physical strength.

Method: Two repeated measures experiments were carried out with sample sizes N=56, and N=118. Both included measures of physical performance assessing, respectively, grip and arm strength, and both included the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) to measure risky behaviour. Experiment 2, which was pre-registered, additionally assessed flow, emotion including humour, distraction including novelty, self-confidence and anxiety.

Results: Experiments 1 and 2 found that repeating a swear word benefitted physical strength and increased risky behaviour, but risky behaviour did not mediate the strength effect. Experiment 2 found that repeating a swear word increased flow, positive emotion, humour and distraction and self-confidence. Humour mediated the effect of swearing on physical strength.

Discussion: Consistent effects of swearing on physical strength indicate that this is a reliable effect. Swearing influenced several constructs related to state disinhibition including increased self-confidence. Humour appeared to mediate the effect of swearing on physical strength, consistent with a hot cognitions explanation of swearing-induced state disinhibition. However, as this mediation effect was part of an exploratory analysis, further pre-registered experimental research including validated measures of humour is required.

Keywords: swearing, disinhibition, risk-taking, humour, confidence, mediation