The Health Guru

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Are your ears linked to your taste buds?

Posted on | October 20, 2010 | No Comments

A recent study has found that levels of noise are linked to the perceived sweetness, saltiness and crunchiness of food.

A study was conducted on participants who were blindfolded and given food while listening to either silence, quiet or loud background white noise.  The participants were then asked to rate the food for its sweetness, saltiness, crunchiness, overall flavour and liking.

The findings were that the perceived sweetness and saltiness of food was much lower when listening to loud music than compared to the quiet conditions. However, the crunchiness was rated ‘more crunchy’ when listening to loud noise.

The researchers suggested that this could be due to the different channels used for feedback.  It appeared that auditory (listening) channels conveying the crunch factor were differently affected by the intensity of noise.  As you can’t hear whether a food is salty or sweet, it could be a reason for the lowered taste association.  The study concluded that the overall flavour and liking of the food decreased as noise was increased.  So the pleasure of eating food really does indulge all the senses:  Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight and Sound.

What this could mean in terms of every day life?

If you eat while watching television is this distracting you from enjoying your meals?

Is this why aeroplane food is reported to be so bland? Perhaps in reality aeroplane food is amazing quality cuisine but the background noise makes you think that it doesn’t have much flavour.  Could this lead to airlines providing over salted and sweet foods to keep you happy?

It’s well known that as you get older you ‘lose your tastebuds’ which was previously associated with a decrease in smell and taste – but is this also due to hearing loss?

What you can do:  At the dinner table get into the habit of turning off television or loud distractions when you eat.  You can enjoy the full flavour of meals and this will also increase the satisfaction of your meal, leading to not over-eating.

Never get your children to watch a movie to distract them while you shovel food in their mouth.  Start your children off with good eating habits.

And like I always recommend to really enjoy your food and savor every mouthful– remember to eat slowly. Put your utensils down between mouthfuls and stop eating when you feel 80% full because it’s better to waste it than to ‘waist’ it.  Enjoy!!

Study: Effect of background noise on food perception

Original Research Article

Food Quality and Preference, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 10 July 2010,

A.T. Woods, E. Poliakoff, D.M. Lloyd, J. Kuenzel, R. Hodson, H. Gonda, J. Batchelor, G.B. Dijksterhuis and A. Thomas


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