Crunch That Nut

Discovery in whatever form could become an addiction for those who seek an in-depth knowledge of how we get the best results from everything we use or consume daily. Since I’m always clamouring to find out new tricks to improve my way of life and add to my knowledge in general, I must admit that this pursuit has over the years become an important focus without which I feel a certain void. The latest odd research has shown that we eat less when we can hear ourselves chew. It may be bad manners, but eating noisily could be good for one’s waistline. Ryan Elder of Brigham Young University in Utah says: ‘Sound is typically the forgotten food sense, but if people were more focused on the sound food makes it could reduce consumption.’

Dr Elder made the findings after several groups of volunteers agreed to do taste tests and measuring how much food they ate. In one, 71 students were asked to rate the taste of a type of pretzel while wearing headphones. Half heard loud noise, which drowned out the sound of their chewing, and they got through 4 pretzels each. The others were able to hear themselves eat and only consumed 2.8 pretzels on average. Dr Elder explained: ‘The effects may not seem huge – one less pretzel – but over the course of a week, month or year it could really add up.’

In another experiment, 156 students were asked to rate biscuits made of pitta bread. Before they ate them, half of the volunteers read packaging which described the crackers as ‘crispy’ while the others were simply told they were ‘tasty and delicious’. Both groups were then given the same biscuits to eat – but those who had been made to think of them as being crunchy, ate fewer.

Writing in the journal Food Quality and Preference, Dr Elder said he isn’t sure why eating noisily has such a notable effect. It may be that the act reminds us of how much we are eating. It is also possible we tire of eating more quickly when it is a louder experience. Whatever the reason, it could help explain why we tend to munch mindlessly in front of the TV or at the cinema – and means that people could lose more weight simply by eating in silence.

Dr Elder said: ‘When you mask the sound of consumption, like when you watch TV while eating it may cause you to eat more than you would normally. But while the crunch factor could lead to us eating less, we may enjoy the food more.’

Previous British research has shown how crisp food triggers the brain’s pleasure centres, with the sound of biting into an apple the most enjoyable. The makers of Magnum ice cream learned this lesson the hard way. In response to criticism that the chocolate coating was too brittle they produced a softer one – only to be told their customers missed the cracking sound of the original. A return to its first formulation soon followed.

Since at my advanced age of 84, I seem to eat much less, I need not eat noisily to remain slim. Thank God I don’t have to take up bad manners!

I leave those whose food consumption is horrendous either to risk falling into disgusting behaviour or reduce naturally their food intake. Big bellies take heed and look at yourselves naked in the mirror if you dare….

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