28 June 2013

Food is a multi-sensory experience

The size, weight, shape and colour of your cutlery can affect how food tastes, a new study suggests.


The size, weight, shape and colour of your cutlery can affect how food tastes, a new study suggests.

In the research, participants thought white yoghurt tasted sweeter than pink-coloured yoghurt when eaten from a white spoon, but the reverse was true when a black spoon was used.

These findings could help people improve their eating habits by reducing portion sizes or the amount of salt they add to their food, the researchers said.

"How we experience food is a multi-sensory experience involving taste, the feel of the food in our mouths, aroma and the feasting of our eyes," said Vanessa Harrar and Charles Spence of the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom.

"Even before we put food into our mouths, our brains have made a judgement about it, which affects our overall experience."

They found that yoghurt seemed denser and more expensive when eaten with a plastic spoon. White yoghurt was rated sweeter, more liked and more expensive than pink-coloured yoghurt when they were eaten with a white spoon. These effects were reversed when the two colours of yoghurt were eaten with a black spoon.

When participants were offered cheese on a knife, spoon, fork or toothpick, they said the cheese from the knife tasted saltiest, according to the study.

"Subtly changing eating implements and tableware can affect how pleasurable, or filling, food appears," Harrar said. "When serving a dish, one should keep in mind that the colour of the food appears different depending on the background on which it is presented and, therefore, tastes different."

This may also be used to help control eating patterns such as portion size or how much salt is added to food. Alternatively, people may be able to make better food choices if their ingrained colour associations are disrupted by less constant advertising and packaging.

Previous research has shown that the weight and colour of a plate can alter peoples' perceptions of how dense, salty or sweet food tastes.

More information

The US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about taste and taste disorders.

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