Green plants at home have surprising effect on junk food cravings

Exposure to greenery, such as a walk in the park or afternoon spent working in a garden, has been linked to multiple potential health benefits over the years, including reduced blood pressure. A new study out of the University of Plymouth has found another possible health benefit related to green plants: a reduction in cravings for junk food, alcohol and cigarettes.

The study, which was recently published in the journal Health & Place, found that passive exposure to green plants — simply being near them, that is — resulted in less frequent cravings for junk food, alcohol, and cigarettes. As well, the researchers found these cravings were weaker when they did occur.

The greenery simply needed to be located near one's home — this could mean plants inside the house, but was also found to include the ability to see green spaces from one's home, such as in a backyard. The results lend credence to a past study that found exercising in nature, such as a park, reduced cravings in participants. In both that study and this new one, the reduced cravings were found to persist regardless of how much activity the participants engaged in.

This marks the first time researchers have investigated whether passive exposure to greenery had an effect on negative emotions and cravings for vices like junk food and cigarettes. Benefits across both categories were found in people who either had more than 25-percent of their home's views taken up by greenery or who had access to similar green spaces, such as a garden.

Talking about the study was lead researchers Leanne Martin, who said:

It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person's wellbeing. But for there to be a similar association with cravings from simply being able to see green spaces adds a new dimension to previous research. This is the first study to explore this idea, and it could have a range of implications for both public health and environmental protection programmes in the future.