No food critic ever says, "This carrot makes such a satisfactory crunching noise, Three stars!"
But how food sounds as you eat it influences your appetite nonetheless. Recent research has determined a number of factors that determine how much we want to eat and when, from the sound food makes to poorly-fitting dentures.
"While hunger – our body's way of making us desire food when it needs feeding – is a part of appetite, it is not the only factor. After all, we often eat when we're not hungry, or may skip a meal despite pangs of hunger," University of Aberdeen nutrition expert Alex Johnstone explained in The Conversation. "Recent research has highlighted that the abundance of food cues – smells, sounds, advertising – in our environment is one of the main causes of overconsumption."
While it's intriguing for foodies and the restaurants that serve them, new findings about appetite may also benefit those trying to prevent or cope with eating disorders and diabetes.
"Children are especially susceptible to food cues," noted the authors of a study that studied age-based response to food cues. "Understanding the mechanisms behind this regulation in healthy individuals across the life span can help to elucidate the mechanisms underlying overconsumption and aid the development of future obesity prevention strategies."
Here are four unexpected factors that impact appetite:
Whether you can hear yourself chew
According to Medical News Today, being able to hear yourself finish off a meal can actually cue you to stop eating. But when those sounds are masked by other sounds, like music in a restaurant, you may not pause when you feel full. "In other words, the more conscious a person is of the sound their food makes while they are eating, the less they are likely to eat," MNT concluded. Colorado State University's Gina Mohr is co-author of a study that came up with the concept of the "Crunch Effect." The sound of food is "an important sensory cue in the eating experience, but consumers and researchers largely overlook its effect," she told MNT.
Whether you're on a plane
A dulled sense of taste can diminish your appetite on a plane, according to The Guardian. It cited a 2011 study on the way background noise affected food perception. "Loud background noise suppresses saltiness, sweetness and overall enjoyment of food. (For fliers, this is compounded by the high altitude blocking nasal passages, and therefore access to aromas.)," The Guardian noted. "Incidentally, for those among you who curse that you can't hear yourself think, or indeed taste, in some restaurants, it isn't unheard of for the background din to register 90db, which is a tad louder than commercial flights."
How old you are
"Our appetite is also not fixed, it changes across our lifespan as we age," Johnstone added. Particularly for those who are 60-70 and older, food intake is not longer accompanied by social pleasure and appetite may take a nose dive. "The loss of a partner or family and eating alone affect the sense of pleasure taken from eating," Johnstone noted. "Other affects of old age, such as swallowing problems, dental issues, reduced taste and smell also interfere with the desire to eat and our rewards from doing so."
Whether you have misophonia
People who suffer from the sound-processing disorder misophonia (which isn't validated by a medical diagnosis yet) experience rage or fear when they hear certain everyday noises being made by fellow humans. "Chewing is almost universal. Gum chewing is almost universal. They also don't like the sound of throat clearing. Coughing, sniffing, nose blowing — a number of things," Jaelline Jaffe, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles who specializes in misophonia told NPR. While lots more research needs to be done, this condition may cause all sorts of stress that affects different aspects of life. It may not specifically drive away appetite, but it certainly drives sufferers from eating around others. "It's as if the survival part of the brain thinks somehow it's being attacked or it's in danger," Jaffe added.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.