Everybody knows that settling down in front of the telly with a whacking great pizza or a tub of ice cream improves the viewing experience no end. But apparently the specific food we shovel into our faces while we’re vegging out can have a more profound influence on our reactions to films or TV shows than we might imagine.
That’s what neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis says at any rate, and he’s just compiled a list of the perfect foodstuffs to enhance the impact of films of different genres after spending some time “digging around in the scientific and medical literature.”
But this is no mere parade of crude stereotypes (meat for action movies, chocolates for romcoms etc), and the good doctor’s findings appear, on the surface at least, somewhat counterintuitive.
For instance, it’s apparently best to watch romantic films with a curry (don’t worry, if you both eat it you won’t smell the garlic).
Why? Well, a meal rich in cholesterol, zinc and magnesium (like a creamy curry) “maximises [the] availability of testosterone to make a romantic film more emotionally-arousing.”
It’s all down to the effect of diet on brain chemistry according to Dr Lewis, who said: “Everyone knows that certain drugs can change the way you feel, but the chemicals we take into our bodies through our diet can also have an effect on our mood.
“The idea is that eating the right foods will ensure there is a plentiful supply of all the relevant chemical messengers when the brain requires them to produce the appropriate emotional state.”
So eating sun-dried tomatoes (rather than hunks of steak) while watching action films apparently helps the brain convert dopamine into the fight-or-flight chemical noradrenaline thanks to their trace levels of copper, ensuring you're suitably keyed up to handle those moments of deadly peril (from your sofa). And if you’re hoping to get the maximum possible laughs out of a comedy you’ll want to eat crunchy veg like coleslaw and celery to get nitric oxide – a chemical similar to laughing gas - flowing around your blood vessels.
In order to focus on a serious drama you’ll want foods like whole wheat bread and vegetables, which release energy gradually to help you hold your attention for a long time. And horror buffs aiming to enhance those scary thrills will want to gobble up protein-rich foods like chicken and salmon because protein “has been observed to increase feelings of anxiety,” according to Lewis.
“Choosing to eat certain foods, whilst leaving others out, regulates the availability of ‘raw materials’ that the brain’s chemical messengers are created from. This means that you can tailor your meals to create the perfect mood for a movie night in, no matter what the genre,” said the doctor.
The research was commissioned by online video streaming service Blinkbox, who charged Dr Lewis with discovering which foods help film fans get the most from their movies. Now I don't know about you, but all that's left me feeling a bit peckish. Pass the vindaloo, darling.