Aroma of food affects bite size

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Bite size is affected by the intensity of the aroma of the food being consumed and suggests that aroma may be used as a means to control portion size. This is the outcome of research by scientists from Wageningen University, Top Institute Food and Nutrition and NIZO, published in Flavour.

The amount of food – bite size – that people take during consumption is highly variable. Smaller bite sizes are associated with more solid foods that are more satiating than less viscous foods. This suggests that bite size is actively regulated during eating in response to sensed food properties. To determine the effect of aroma on bite size, the researchers varied the amount of aroma delivered through a tube in the nose of the participants as they consumed a custard-like dessert. This was done in such a way that the participants experienced as if the aroma emanated from the dessert, as is normally the case. Unaware of the variation in the administered aroma, the participants/panelists freely chose the bite sizes of the dessert that was delivered in their mouths by pushing a button.

The results of the study showed that the stronger the aroma the smaller the bites that were taken. Dr René de Wijk from Wageningen University explains that a higher aroma intensity suggests more food based on our experience of eating all kinds of foods. “Since smaller bite sizes are associated with a lower aroma perception, there may be an unconscious feedback using bite size to regulate the amount of aroma perceived.”

According to TI Food and Nutrition project leader and NIZO scientist Dr Harold Bult these findings fit well in the search of industry to look for foods that help to reduce the caloric intake while maintaining the eating satisfaction. “We may reduce bite size without raising the caloric content of the food. Our study suggests that a reduction in intake per bite of 5% can be achieved.“