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New Mood App Suggests Therapy Foods

Pepper with a face on it crying with Paprika spilling out of a bottle

A new app uses facial expressions to assess your mood and then tell you what food you should be eating.

The app, developed by researchers at Oxford University, may be able to lift your mood and cut anxiety.

New App Development

The app was put together by Professor Charles Spence, working alongside the delivery service Just Eat. They used new mood mapping technology to create a scanner which can even pick up on hidden feelings that you may be trying to ignore.

someone eating chocolate cake with a fork

"Face mapping can provide a more accurate and objective assessment of a person's mood or emotional state than they can,” said Professor 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 - a reverse of this is also believed to be true, that food can have a number of affects on your mood."

When putting together mood and food, he enlisted the help of those with top chef jobs: Heston Blumenthal as well as El Bulli’s former chef Ferran Adria. They looked into how food can also involve the other sense at the University of Oxford’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory.

The way mood affects taste can be seen at times of sadness. After a break-up or the death of a loved one, it can be common to stop eating, as food does not taste as good as it did previously.

"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.

A Menu Maker

The range of emotions that the app can detect currently include anger, disgust, sadness, fear, surprise, and joy. Menu suggestions are based on the emotions detected. Anger, for example, will be prescribed stress-relieving foods. These include dark chocolate and magnesium-rich nuts. If you are joyful, you may need your blood sugar regulated with whole grains and vegetables.

Anxiety can be calmed with foods which contain tryptophan, such as cheese, tofu, beans, and eggs.

“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,” said Nutritionist Ruth Tongue. “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."

Graham Corfield, UK Managing Director of Just Eat, said: "We know that mood plays a part in what we choose to eat, so innovations like Emotion-Analysis-Technology, while fun, also serve a real purpose. Ultimately we want people be thinking about food and the impact it can have on their daily life."

It’s interesting to think how this app could help us to self-regulate our moods for the happiest possible outcome. Could we see this being used in food careers as a way to sell products in the future? It would be interesting to see menu items rated by how they would help your mood, or even food on sale in shops with marks on the packaging.

For now, though, this app could help those who suffer particularly from anxiety or depression. We’ll know more when it becomes fully available to download later in the year.