If you’ve ever sat down to watch something on the Food Network and suddenly gotten hungry, it wasn’t a coincidence. New research indicates looking at “food porn” — images of sumptuous edibles — actually does stimulate the appetite.

The Endocrine Society in Houston studied the brains of 13 obese women and found that just looking at images of yummy food stimulated the appetite and reward centers of the brain, making someone hungry — and the higher the calorie count of the food shown, the hungrier the person got.

Since the same study also found that sugar spikes the appetite, researcher Dr. Kathleen Page said it’s possible the widespread addition of sugar to foods “could be one of the main contributors to the obesity epidemic.”

Bottom line: the next time someone says “all I have to do is LOOK at food and I gain weight,” you’ll know he or she may be telling the truth.

[io9]