July 19, 2012

New study: Boost your movie experience with FOOD

Movie fans might think that eye-popping 3D screens and crystal clear surround sound are all that are needed for a movie night in. However, while sight and sound are important, stimulating other senses makes watching a film even better. Findings out today from blinkbox, the UK’s leading online movie service, reveal that even what is on the end of your fork can influence your mood, enhancing the movie experience.

Shockingly, findings reveal that action fans should swap their popcorn for sun-dried tomatoes and that couples should eat a curry during a cosy night in with a touching romance. Further findings show that chilli can keep movie watchers focused during an intense drama, and coleslaw can give even more laughs during an off-the-wall comedy.

To promote its new ‘Movie & a Meal’ offer with supermarket Tesco, blinkbox has partnered with a top neuroscientist, Dr. Jack Lewis, to discover which foods will help film fans get the most from the on-screen action.

Jack Lewis (Ph.D.), looked for clues as to the foods that influence our moods. Using this knowledge, Dr. Jack Lewis identified the active chemical ingredients found in everyday foods that affect our brains and emotions, and that then deliver the best movie experience depending on what the viewer is watching. His findings gave blinkbox the perfect, if unusual, combinations for the ultimate movie night in:

  • Romance – Curl up with a spicy curry to top up your libido-stoking testosterone levels 
  • Action – Sun-dried tomatoes coated in cocoa powder will raise noradrenaline which is instrumental to sensations of excitement 
  • Comedy – Fresh fish stuffed with beetroot and coleslaw to supplement the nitric oxide system and improve dopamine availability in the pleasure pathways of your brain 
  • Drama – Chopped lemon, lime and mint sandwich drizzled with chilli sauce on whole wheat bread to trigger the RAS (reticular activating system) to remain alert and focused. 
  • Horror – Chicken marinated in freshly brewed coffee will take you out of your comfort zone and raise levels of anxiety 

“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,” says Dr. Jack 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.”

The Findings in Full 


A spicy curry might not seem like the most romantic meal, but it turns out that the main ingredients such as cream, coriander and soya beans can help boost testosterone, an important sexual arousal hormone for both men and women.

Dr. Jack Lewis says: 
 “In order to get that “lovin’ feeling”, testosterone production requires a reasonable amount of fat in the diet together with zinc and magnesium. These form vital components of the enzymes that convert cholesterol into testosterone. Testosterone acts inside cells throughout the body and brain, strengthening muscles and stimulating brain areas involved in sexual arousal. So by dining on a meal rich in “good” cholesterol, zinc and magnesium, testosterone production can be maximised.”


Adrenaline junkies that want to up the ante during an action film should put down the popcorn and pick up some sundried tomatoes. The study identified that the dried tomatoes, as well as ingredients such as cocoa powder and dried basil, contain trace levels of copper which is required to convert dopamine into noradrenaline. Additionally, l-phenylalanine is the raw material from which excitement-generating noradrenaline is made from and is found in foods such as fish, beef and aspartame (found in most sugar free beverages).

Dr. Jack Lewis says: 
“Noradrenaline is vitally involved in the famous “fight-or-flight response. For instance, it’s noradrenaline that sets your heart racing when a sudden, unexpected twist occurs in the plot line of a movie such as a car chase, accident or fight.”


To get the most laughs while watching a comedy, the research reveals that you need to focus on foods that boost dopamine and nitric oxide release to enhance happiness.

Dr. Jack Lewis says: 
“Laughter causes a gas called nitric oxide (NO) to be released in the blood vessels of your body and brain which makes your body tingle so you feel the amusement more intensely. Nitrous oxide – more commonly known as laughing gas – is a closely related chemical. So to keep the laughs coming fast and thick, make sure you’re eating foods rich in nitrates such as beetroot, coleslaw and celery.”

 “Additionally, dopamine is a major neurotransmitter used in brain networks responsible for feelings of pleasure and happiness. To increase the availability of dopamine in the pleasure pathways of the brain you should be eating foods rich in l-phenylalanine like fish, beef, chicken, pork or even soy meat substitute.”


When getting ready to delve into a gripping drama, it’s important to be able to focus. Ingredients such as whole wheat bread and strong smelling foods like chilli, citrus fruits and mint can all help keep you engaged through all of the plot twists and emotional ups and downs.

Dr. Jack Lewis says: 
“Eating a meal consisting of slow-release carbohydrates, such as whole grains and vegetables, will provide the brain with the consistent and gradual release of energy that is necessary for holding your attention for a long period of time.”

Additionally, the reticular activating system (RAS) is a part of the brainstem that responds to powerful stimuli and influences the overall level of activity across the brain. Consuming very pungent flavours will trigger the RAS to increase your focus.”


If you’re a horror fiend, the study has uncovered that you should be focusing on high protein meals like chicken and salmon, while avoiding carbs which we all find so comforting and decrease your scare - ability!

Dr. Jack Lewis says: 
“To get your brain out of its “comfort zone” stay away from carb heavy meals that boost feelings of security. Instead, go for a meal that’s high in protein only, which has been observed to increase feelings of anxiety – perfect for getting in the mood for your favourite horror flick! Keeping carbs low all day ensures that the mood-stabilising chemical serotonin is low by the evening to maximise the horror.”