In Depth

Study reveals global craving for takeaway at 7pm and 2am

Ancient human patterns of food foraging have moved online, say scientists

New data suggest that humans across the globe are united in their desire to order takeaway at roughly the same time.

Analysis of Google searches by Nicolas Scrutton Alvarado and Tyler J. Stevenson from the School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen shows that people “get cravings for takeaway around the same time each day no matter where they live”, says Business Insider.

The researchers found that despite big cultural differences between the UK, US, Canada, Australia and India there was a remarkably consistent rhythm of people wanting to find food online at about 7pm and again at 2am.

The research, the scientists said, looked at internet search patterns as a reflection of a biological rhythm created as a result of natural selection.

“Successful foraging behaviour has been favoured by natural selection, which shaped innate, species-specific decision rules that maximize energy gain,” Alvarado and Stevenson write in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

“Across the animal kingdom, predator–prey interactions have resulted in several decisions that attempt to optimise the energetic gain per unit of time.”

The pair added that this 2am peak might raise public health concerns about obesity, with eating food late at night being linked to weight gain. But more probably it's related to people with “late chronotypes”, or “body clocks that naturally predispose them to stay up well past sunset”, reports The Times.

People across all five countries seemed to enjoy googling common phrases like “pizza delivery” and “Chinese delivery” as well as country-specific terms, including popular delivery brands in their region. For example, the study found that people living in Australia and the UK searched for “Just Eat”, while those living in India looked for “Zomato”.

The study also found a steady increase in searches for pizza over the course of the week, with roughly twice as many inquiries on a Saturday than on a Monday.

The research suggests ancient "foraging" behaviour has now switched online with the researchers saying they think their study is the first to describe internet-based food searches as a modern form of foraging.

“All organisms have strategies to locate and consume nutrients and food necessary for survival,” says Dr Stevenson.

That primeval hunting instinct “has now moved to late-night searching on the wide plains of the internet”, says the BBC. “Not so much hunting and gathering, as hunting and googling”.

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