News From the Flaky Fringe

astronaut-chow

As Childhood Obesity News has noted during other visits to the outer limits of probability, a lot of people are called crackpots until, without having changed in any substantial way, they suddenly become geniuses. A subject as large as obesity is bound to attract a lot of theories. Among them, an effort to revive the “forgotten food sense” is an idea that might, as they say in Hollywood, have legs.

Salience is the quality of being noticeable, prominent, or important. Ryan S. Eldera and Gina S. Mohrb published a report called “The crunch effect: “Food sound salience as a consumption monitoring cue.” What they say, basically, is that the sound produced by chewing is an intrinsic sensory cue that somehow contributes to the perception of satiety. Consequently, more attentive listening could lead to reduced food consumption.

Or maybe to increased food consumption. Given that marketers communicate for only one reason, which is to induce consumers to buy more product, the last sentence of the Abstract is rather troubling:

Our findings are valuable to both researchers interested in understanding how sensory cues are connected to consumption and marketers utilizing sound in their communications to consumers.

Todd Hollingshead wrote about the research, on behalf of one of the institutions concerned, Brigham Young University. (The other was Colorado State University). He says “people eat less when the sound of the food is more intense.”

What it suggests, in practical terms, is that consciousness of the sound of mastication is a good thing, so turn down volume of the TV, stereo, or whatever, as you chomp and crunch. And enjoy your own internal soundtrack, as part of an exercise in mindfulness.

A related worry

At the same time, Sarina Locke reports, there is concern about the ascendency of what is essentially baby food, for people who are not infants. All kinds of nutriments come in plastic pouches, which may in itself be a problem. Maybe phthalates and similar packaging materials, just on their own, contribute to obesity.

Some experts are against the gratuitous pureeing of food, for the same reasons cited by Eldera and Mohrb. To persuade toddlers to swallow them, the vegetables probably contain too much sugar. Mush packets are given to kids at an age when they really should be getting more practice at chewing. The mush diet could impede the proper development of both dentition and speech.

Locke interviewed Sarah Hyland of the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology, who warned of the dangers in depriving children of the “sensory perception of texture and simple tastes.” She went on to say:

It’s a reminder of the importance of visual, colour and textural cues in eating solid food for reasons of jaw development, speech development, and sensory literacy.

At the other end of the age spectrum, the purees seem to be very popular with elderly folks who may have compromised chewing ability, or physical dysfunctions that make eating difficult. But that’s not all. Busy adults apparently love the convenience of sucking a meal from a pouch.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The crunch effect: Food sound salience as a consumption monitoring cue,” ScienceDirect.com, July 2016
Source: “The sounds of eating may reduce how much you eat,” BYU.edu, 03/14/16
Source: “Are we raising ‘generation suck’ who drink food with no need for chewing?,” Abc.net.au, 08/25/16
Photo by Marco Gomes on Visualhunt/CC BY

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