Videos featuring food are popular on social media. It turns out, the types of food people are drawn to aren't necessarily healthy.
People are far more likely to share, like or comment on videos of calorie-dense foods like pancakes or fried chicken, according to a recent study out of Canada.
Researchers believe this phenomenon is connected to saturated fats.
"Saturated fats are prevalent in things like butter, cheese, meats and oils," said Ethan Pancer, an author of the research, who works as an assistant professor at the Sobey School of Business at St. Mary's University. "They're really known to give food that juicy, chewy, creamy experience. That's what is commonly seen in a lot of these videos: They're layered with different types of cheeses, the cheese is melting, it's really getting that juicy, chewy experience that people seem to be looking for."
It's easy to think of these videos as a quick diversion from daily life.
But experts warn that there are side effects to the proliferation of so-called "food porn."
As engagement increases, the junk food posts are often rewarded by social media algorithms, and gain more prominent placement in our social feeds.
"If more unhealthy content is being viewed, what that actually means is it's changing the social dynamics of what we see as normal for food consumption," Pancer said.
His research pointed out that there is a proven link between food promotion and eating habits.
"This isn't just changing what we eat as individuals," Pancer said. "It's changing how we share our food and what people are actually eating in a social context."
Globally, governments are taking note.
The U.K. will ban junk food advertising online in 2023 as part of a broader push to reduce the consumption of products that are high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS).
Similar legislation has been proposed in the U.S. but hasn't gained traction.
In the meantime, the marketing of unhealthy foods continues to be a lucrative business.
Companies spend more than $14 billion each year on U.S. food marketing, according to research conducted by the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health.
Eighty percent of that spending is used to promote unhealthy products.