Obesity levels could be cut if food manufacturers made their products less palatable, it was claimed this week.

Speaking at a Chartered Institute of Marketing conference on food and health, John Blundell, bio-psychology professor at the University of Leeds, said humans were programmed to overindulge in highly ­flavoursome foods because they stimulated "hedonistic hotspots in the brain", he said.

"If only bland things like rice were on offer we would eat a lot less. I think there is a marketing opportunity to promote food that is less hedonistically pleasurable as an aid to dieting."