Indian takeout can boost your mood, according to semi-dubious science

The science may be suspect, but we can attest to the serotonin boost that comes with a palak paneer platter.

Platter of papdi chaat, a popular North Indian street food
Papdi chaat, a popular North Indian street food
Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint (Getty Images)

We’re always a little hesitant when a third-party delivery service conducts a “study.” You got scientists toiling away in your office, GrubHub? You working with a steady supply of Bunsen burners, DoorDash? I’ll believe it when I see it. So when I received a PR email advertising a new study from German third-party delivery service Lieferando, I was wary. Lieferando claimed to reveal “which takeaways boost our serotonin levels most.” Indian takeout came out on top. Questionable scientific method? Perhaps, but I couldn’t argue with the mood-boosting benefits of palak paneer, so I read on.

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Turns out that Lieferando studied 2,158 participants throughout 2020 and “analyzed their emotional reactions to 11 different takeaway meals.” Liefernado used something called the Brief Mood Introspection Scale (BMIS) to measure participants’ moods immediately before and after eating. The BMIS apparently rates the “intensity of positive emotions” to create an overall happiness score.

The initial findings were pretty predictable: Liefernado found that ordering any kind of takeaway meal increases happiness by an average of 52%. Per these results, you really should use Liefernado’s services if you want to increase your happiness. Convenient! Like I mentioned up top, the study showed that Indian food increased participants’ happiness the most, raising the average BMIS by a whopping 83%. Sushi followed, raising BMIS levels by about 73%. The study also found that “American-style takeaway” (read: burgers) increased participants’ BMIS scores by about 70%.

Fish and chips were in last place, boosting happiness by just 18%. But hey, a happiness boost in a happiness boost. Predictably, the study didn’t include foods that reduced happiness levels. I’m honestly not sure what that would be. Tuna salad takeout? Old gazpacho, maybe?

Overall, the study serves Liefernado’s purposes just fine. Unfortunately, the exact methodologies behind the study are unclear. We don’t have any information on specific entrees, portion sizes, or regional differences in cuisine. (Broad terms like “Indian food” and “Chinese food” are less than helpful.) But you’re right, Liefernado: takeout does, in fact, make you happy. Science!

DISCUSSION

By
thundercatsarego

Glad to see Thai food come in at #4 on the list (yes, I know the whole study is junk, but I don’t care. I want my preferences confirmed). Thai food is my happy place.

Also unsurprised to see fish and chips at the bottom of the list. I always want fish and chips to be better than it really is. I’m frequently disappointed.