Don't know what you 'feel' like eating? There's an app for that
Scientists have developed face-mapping technology that picks dishes to suit your mood, writes Sarah Knapton
Feeling blue? A bit down in the dumps? Well, scientists at Oxford University believe they have an answer.
A smartphone app has been developed that scans your facial expression to judge if you're feeling depressed, stressed or plain angry.
It then uses that information to recommend the perfect food to lift the spirits, or quell anxiety.
The app is being trialled for the first time this weekend ahead of a roll-out later this year.
Professor Charles Spence, an experimental scientist, developed the app to scan the face for signs of emotions, such as downturned lips and eyes and frown lines. It can even pick up on hidden feelings that a person may be ignoring.
"Face mapping can provide a more accurate and objective assessment of a person's mood or emotional state than they can," said Prof Spence. "Often people are not able to say how they are feeling or just don't feel they want to. After all, we might know that we are in a bad mood, but not know why.
"There is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that your mood has a significant impact on your taste and smell - it can deaden or liven the effect of both. The reverse of this is also believed to be true; that food can have a number of effects on your mood."
Prof Spence has worked with Heston Blumenthal and former El Bulli chef Ferran Adria on involving the other senses in the pursuit of taste and runs the university's Crossmodal Research Laboratory.
He said mood and emotion can affect the "sensory discriminatory aspects of tasting", which is why people often stop eating following a break-up or when they are grieving, because food does not taste as good.
"This is at the very cutting edge of what technology and science can do, but in the future it is likely to become much more the norm," he added. The app, developed by Prof Spence in conjunction with the food delivery service Just Eat, detects anger, disgust, fear, surprise, sadness and joy and makes menu suggestions according to what it finds.
For example, an angry face suggests that a person is stressed and so would benefit from calming foods, such as dark chocolate and nuts, which contain magnesium. In contrast, people who are excited may benefit from blood sugar-regulated foods such as whole grains and legumes.
Nutritionist Ruth Tongue said: "Not only do our moods affect the foods we choose to eat, but the foods we eat can in turn help us to feel happier, energised, relaxed, focused or fired up and ready for the day.
"It's important to recognise the relationship between the foods we eat and our moods so that we can ensure that we're looking after not only our physical, but also our emotional wellbeing."
UK managing director of Just Eat Graham Corfield said: "We know that mood plays a part in what we choose to eat, so innovations like emotion analysis technology serve a real purpose."
Science of the senses: What to munch and when
Angry/stressed: Calming foods containing magnesium like dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, brown rice, avocado, black beans and nuts.
Disgusted/disillusioned: Foods to increase mood and brain function, especially omega 3s (oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, walnuts and flaxseed).
Afraid/anxious: Calming foods containing the amino acid tryptophan, like nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs.
Surprised/excited: Blood sugar-regulating low glycemic index foods like whole grains, lean protein (fish, chicken, low-fat dairy, lentils and beans).
Sad/fed up: Vitamin D-rich foods to boost mood like dairy products, eggs and oily fish.
Cheerful/ joyful: Stabilise mood with vitamin B6 found in potatoes, eggs and chicken.